Cut A Little, Save A Lot

In tough times, everyone’s in cost-cutting mode — around the house and around town. Here are a few creative ways to save:

Look behind. The fridge is one of your biggest energy hogs. Trim expenses by cleaning the coils behind the appliance, says lifestyle coach Leah Ingram, author of “Suddenly Frugal.”

Test. Regularly check to make sure the freezer and fridge doors seal tightly when closed. If they don’t stick firmly when shut, you need a new door seal.

Repeat. Your clothes dryer is also a huge energy user. One way to trim costs? “Run full loads back-to-back,” Ingram said. “Most of the energy the dryer uses is for heating up the metal drum inside. If you’re able to dry batch after batch, without letting the dryer drum cool down, your clothes will dry faster” and you’ll cut the cycle time.

During the drying cycle, remove clothes that you know dry faster. This lets the remaining clothes dry more quickly, shortening the cycle.

Home in. [Read the full article]

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Do you keep telling yourself that you must start saving money, but your bank balance barely budges?

Recent research suggests establishing clear-cut goals, like building funds for a wedding or a down payment, is more effective than simply vowing to save money.

Then, once a goal is in mind, set up a text message at regular intervals to remind yourself to make savings deposits.

That’s the advice of Dartmouth economist Jonathan Zinman and Yale economist Dean Karlan. They recently completed experiments with three foreign banks — in Bolivia, Peru and the Philippines — whereby customers were asked to open accounts to build savings for a specific, stated goal. Then, some of the customers were randomly selected to receive text messages at regular intervals reminding them to make a deposit.

Those who received the messages saved 6 percent more than the control group who didn’t get the reminders, plus they were 3 percent more likely to reach their savings goal, says Zinman. [Read the full article]

The Treasury Department said Wednesday it will invest up to $1 billion in small banks that serve poor communities as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to spur more lending to small businesses.

The money will come from the $700 billion bank bailout fund. About 210 banks, thrifts and credit unions that are certified by the Treasury Department as “Community Development Financial Institutions” will be eligible.

Banks and other financial institutions that target more than 60 percent of their small business lending to lower-income rural and urban communities can qualify as CDFIs.

“These institutions operate in areas where unemployment is way above the national average,” said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. “This program … is a very powerful way to make sure that we’re starting to open up the credit channels … [Read the full article]

Visa Inc. on Wednesday said its profit rose 33 percent in the fiscal first-quarter on increased revenue, even as consumers pull back sharply on spending amid the recession.

The payment processing giant reported net income of $763 million, or $1.02 per share, compared with $574 million, or 74 cents per share a year ago.

Revenue growth was strong in all segments, climbing 13 percent to $1.96 billion from $1.74 billion a year ago, driven by strong growth in all revenue categories, particularly data processing revenues and international transaction revenues.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 91 cents per share on revenue of $1.92 billion, on average.

The company’s shares gained $2.39, or 2.9 percent, to $85.91 in aftermarket trading, after adding 49 cents to close at $83.52.

San Francisco-based Visa, operator of the world’s largest retail electronic payments network, went public in March in the biggest U.S. IPO ever. [Read the full article]

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