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Money May 2014

Dollar Sense

April Potpourri: Miscellaneous Information to Protect Your Money and Make it Last Longer

By Teresa Ambord

If you think printer ink is expensive you’re right. Per ounce it costs more than French perfume or Dom Perignon champagne. The ink industry will not be happy to hear that a school project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, turned up a way to use a great deal less with one keystroke on your computer.

You Win! Or… Did You?

The U.S. post office is reminding all of us that sweepstakes are yet another way thieves try to weasel their way into our wallets. After all, who doesn’t like to win? Postal inspectors say legitimate sweepstakes must disclose that no purchase is necessary to win, and that making a purchase does not increase your odds of winning. In other words, you don’t have to buy magazines to win the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

If a contest does not make those statements, think carefully before entering.

A bogus contest may mention a fee but not call it an entry fee. It may be called a processing fee or an insurance fee, or there may be a subtle message that making a purchase will enhance your chances of winning.

You can verify the reputation of a sweepstakes or promotion by calling your Better Business Bureau in the city where the company is located, or your state or local consumer protection office. If you suspect you have been victimized, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection service at or call 1-877-876-2455.

Or check with:

  • The Federal Trade Commission at, or call 1-877-382-4357.
  • You can also contact your state Attorney General, or the National Fraud Information Center at, or call 1-800-876-7060. 
  • More information about contest legitimacy is available at


How to Save a Bundle on Printer Ink

If you think printer ink is expensive you’re right. Per ounce it costs more than French perfume or Dom Perignon champagne. The ink industry will not be happy to hear that a school project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, turned up a way to use a great deal less with one keystroke on your computer. It’s as simple as switching fonts. If you now use Times New Roman (very common), try using Garamond. The difference in ink usage is 24%, and the two fonts look very similar.

This was discovered by a 14-year-old student, Suvir Mirchandani, who was looking for a way his school district could save money. It was determined they could save $21,000 per year if they decide to implement this simple change.

After that discovery, the results of the study were sent to Harvard where researchers applied the same findings to a bigger consumer of ink, in fact, the grand poobah of ink users, the federal government. Harvard determined the fed now budgets $476 million per year, just for printer ink. By switching fonts, they could save an average of $234 million per year, up to a maximum of $394 million per year with this barely noticeable change. Sounds like a great idea, right? So far, the federal government is only yawning at the idea. Maybe over time they will give it a try.

On the other hand, those of us who actually pay for our own ink instead of letting the taxpayers buy it can make a quick and wise decision to be more thrifty.


Senior Spending Has Changed, Not for the Better

What are seniors spending their money on these days? As you might expect, things have changed over the last couple of decades. In a perfect world, by retirement they’d be debt-free. But these days, millions of seniors are digging themselves in deeper and deeper. Take a look at how things have changed in recent decades.

  • In 1989, folks from ages 65-74 carried an average credit card balance of $2,100. By 2010 that had jumped to $6,000 according to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).
  • In the same time frame, for those age 75 and up, the average balance went from barely measurable to $4,600.
  • 21% of those 65-74 carried a mortgage or a home equity loan in 1989. By 2010, this was at 37%.
  • For those 75 and older during the same period, the figures went from 6% to 21% said Pamela Villarreal author of How Are Seniors Spending Their Money.
  • The NCPA also shows that the loan interest on their mortgages and home equity loans has risen from 2.7% in 1990 to 4.3% in 2012 (for those ages 65-74) and during the same measurement period, from .7% of expenditures to 2% (for those age 75 and up).
  • The rise in housing costs and mortgage interest means overall, seniors under age 74 are spending 32.8% on total housing costs, which include mortgage interest, maintenance, and property taxes and home insurance. For those 75 and older, this figure rises to 36.7%.
  • Also, a bigger share is being spent on health care. For those 65-74, health care ranks as the fourth largest category of expenses, totaling 11.4% of their budgets. For those 75 and up, health care is the second largest category of expense, making up 14.7% of expenditures.


What to Buy in June and July

Readers Digest is kind enough to advise readers when it’s the best time to buy certain items. To save money on planned purchases, take a look at these upcoming deals.

June is a good time to buy:

  • Lingerie, presumably because it is wedding season. Victoria’s Secret and turn their inventory over in June.
  • Laptops. Though school is just getting out for the summer, the back-to-school sales begin in earnest in June, at least for laptops.
  • Caribbean vacations: The hurricane season is beginning in this part of the world, so you’ll see steep discounts on vacations there. Aim for early June to miss the worst of it.
  • Tools are often on sale in anticipation of Father’s Day.

July is a good month to buy:   

  • Summer clothing, since it is mid-season and the prices start to fall.
  • Picnic supplies will be on sale, after the 4th of July. It’s a good time to stock up on picnic supplies, but also, party supplies that will carry you through many occasions.
  • Ice cream. July is National Ice Cream Month. Most of us don’t need a sale to indulge in ice cream in the hot summer months, but…here’s just one more good reason to enjoy a sundae. Coupons should be available in many places.
  • Jewelry. Jewelers react to the fact there are no major holidays in July and August. It’s a great time to think ahead for birthdays, Christmas, even next Valentine’s Day and graduations.


Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

Meet Teresa