Friday, October 16, 2009

Unlimited Free Calls From Your Mobile Through Google Voice

Most cellphone carriers provide a feature allowing you a certain number of contacts that you can call, on any network, for free, anytime. So what happens when you team up this feature with your Google Voice number?

In yesterday's Tips Box post, one reader used his cellphone provider's "My Circle" feature to make unlimited free calls with Google Voice.

The idea is that if you only use Google Voice to send and receive calls—and you set Google Voice so that it only displays your Google Voice number when it rings, all of your calls will be free, and you may never need to use another minute again. Each carrier is different, so we're looking at what each plan looks like, and how to use it with Google Voice to get free calls.

For this to work at all, head to Google Voice's Call Settings page and make sure Caller ID is set to Display my Google Voice number. (See the screenshot) Then just add your Google Voice number to your carrier's respective friends and family plan.

* Verizon

Verizon's plan is called Friends & Family, and it allows you to pick 5 or 10 numbers (for individual and family plans, respectively), that you can call for free—even landlines. This deal comes with either the Family SharePlan with 1400 Anytime Minutes or more, or on the Single-Line Plan with 900 Anytime Minutes or more. If you're not on one of these plans, you might have to do a little math to see if upgrading for free calls is worth it. To add numbers to your Friends & Family list, just sign in to My Verizon.

* AT&T

AT&T just rolled out their feature, called A-List, and it is almost exactly the same as Verizon's. 5 or 10 numbers, depending on your plan, which has to be at least 900 minutes for individuals and 1400 for families. With AT&T you still have Rollover, too, so you get to keep the minutes that you save with Google Voice (in theory, at least—although, that hardly seems like it matters if you're not using any in the first place). You can update your list online, through your myWireless account on AT&T's web site.

* T-Mobile

T-Mobile's plan, myFaves, is a little bit simpler. If you have a plan that costs over $49.99 a month, you qualify for myFaves, which allows you 5 numbers that you can call for free. The best part about T-Mobile's plan, as opposed to Verizon and AT&T's, is that if you are on a family plan, each person gets 5 numbers to themselves – they don't have to share 10 with the rest of the family (this is nice if you have a big family; of course, we only need 1 number, and that's Google Voice). To get myFaves and edit your list, you just need to log into your My T-Mobile account.

* Sprint

Sprint is the biggest wild card in this situation. Sprint, unlike the other carriers, does not heavily advertise their plan, called Pick 3. In fact, it's not mentioned anywhere on their web site. Word of the plan has spread through internet word-of-mouth, however, though there are a lot of conflicting messages on how to get it, or whether it still exists. So at the moment, the jury seems out on this one—try calling Sprint and see if you can get them to sign you up, and let us know in the comments what did or didn't work for you.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Money-saving Supermarket Tips

Dreaming up family dinners is always a challenge, but it gets even tougher when money's tight. Here, Teri Gault, coauthor of Shop Smart, Save More, offers tips to help you get the most bang for your grocery buck.

  • Clip coupons. "There's an average of $350 in savings in the paper each week," says Gault. But don't stop there: Coupons are also available online at sites like and And be sure to ask the customer-service desk at your store if they have coupon booklets — bundles of coupons distributed to the store by food manufacturers. Also, call or e-mail the manufacturers of your favorite products to request coupons, suggests Gault.

  • Stack up your savings. Find out if your store has a double-coupon policy and when it's in effect. Then match your coupons to the store's advertised specials (found in the weekly circular). offers a service that does much of the legwork for you — for a small fee, the site will send you a list of sales, specials, and available coupons in your area.

  • Reconsider one-stop shopping. "Regular prices of groceries at a super-center, such as Target or Wal-Mart, tend to be cheaper than at traditional supermarkets, but I've found that sale prices dip much lower at supermarkets, especially since they're more likely to have frequent sales and double coupons," explains Gault.

  • Stockpile. "Take advantage of sales to buy what you need before you need it," suggests Gault. Stock up on nonperishables such as pasta, cereal, and canned goods, for example, when they're on sale. Then you'll have to pay full price only for fresh foods like dairy and produce.

  • Make the most of markdowns. "Meat and bakery items are almost always marked down right before their sell-by date," explains Gault. For tonight's dinner, ask an employee what time of day perishables are marked down (usually late afternoon). "And for maximum savings, look for items that are on advertised sale as well as close to their sell-by date," suggests Gault.


Monday, June 29, 2009

11 Ways to Save Money

You know that feeling of excitement you get when you reach into the pocket of a jacket you haven't worn for a while and pull out a $10 bill you'd forgotten? I love when that happens. That's the same burst of joy you're going to get every time you discover a new way to spend less. Here are 11 super-simple ideas that are like found money.

Entertain the Family for Free

Bank of America has an agreement until April 2009 with 73 museums across the country that allows you to get in free the first weekend of the month if you show them your Bank of America debit, credit or ATM card. Go to to find museums and other attractions in your area. Not a B of A customer? Call or check the website of a museum near you to find out if it offers free days or evenings like the Chicago Children’s Museum does on Thursday evenings and New York City’s Museum of Modern Art does on Friday nights. Show me the money Admission to the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, California, is $46 for a family of four; the Bronx Zoo in New York City, $52. Both are part of Bank of America’s Museums on Us, which saves you a small bundle when you visit.

Get a Good Rewards Credit Card

If you use a debit card to pay for day-to-day expenses (food, gas, etc.), switch to a credit card that has a great rewards program—but be sure to pay your monthly balance on time. Rewards cards carry higher interest, so if you let a balance roll over from month to month, the interest you pay will eat up any rewards cash you earn. Cards vary, so look for one that gives cash back on gas and food purchases, and read the fine print. Go to for a current listing of cash-back rewards cards. Show me the money If your card gives back 6% on gas and grocery purchases, plus 1% on everything else, that adds up—and will be reflected as a credit on your statement. If you buy 40 gallons of gas each month at $4 a gallon, 6% cash back is $9.60. A family of four that spends $400 in groceries for the month could expect $24 cash back.

Gather Your Books

Do you have books in good condition? Go to, type in the books’ ISBN numbers (which you’ll find on the back cover or on the copyright page in the front of the books), and see if you can get cash for them. Complete the transaction online, print out a prepaid mailing label, pack up those books and send them in. In just a few days you will either receive a check in the mail or a deposit to your PayPal account. You won’t pay a cent—not even for postage. Show me the money The first time Emily Towne of Prairie Home, Missouri, tried this system, she sold six books and received a check for $42.30. Your humble columnist has been cleaning out her burgeoning library, pocketing more than $200 so far.

Start a Blog

You can write about nearly anything—from what it’s like to be a mom to politics. It’s free to set one up (visit, and once you do, you can place ads using an easy program like Google AdSense ( Each time a visitor to your blog clicks on an ad, you earn money. (Once you’ve earned $100, you’ll get a check in the mail.) Show me the money You probably won’t replace your paycheck by blogging, but it’s a good way to make extra money. Denise Sawyer, a second-grade teacher from Summerville, Georgia, blogs on how to use coupons and other ways to cut the cost of raising a family. She averages $80–$100 per month in ad earnings, and her best month yet brought in $500.

Do It Yourself

Pick out one item or service you purchase each month, and make or do it yourself. Then pocket the money. For example, make your own laundry detergent with out easy recipe (go to; it works extremely well, and boy, will you save. You can make your own all-purpose cleaner and window cleaner, too. Show me the money The cost to make the laundry detergent is about 2¢ a load versus 25¢ a load for a commercial detergent. Do the math and you’ll see how much that can be in a year’s time. Have you checked the price of window cleaner lately?10 cents an ounce! Instead, pay less than a penny an ounce for your own brew, which works even better.

Take Advantage of Online Rebates

With Microsoft’s new Live Search Cashback program, customers who make an online purchase after using Live Search (Microsoft’s version of Google or Yahoo!) are eligible for a cash-back rebate from Microsoft. Once you have accumulated at least $5, you can request a payout by check or have the money deposited into your bank or PayPal account. Go to to learn more. Show me the money The amount of cash back varies from one retailer to the next. At presstime, a purchase from Zappos will net you 9% cash back. Buy from PetSmart and get 12% cash back. Go to to learn more and to discover all the online retailers who are currently participating.

Shop Your Life Insurance

In the ’90s, term life insurance dropped considerably in price, and rates have continued to decline since then. If you’re currently paying for whole life or term life, get a few quotes online. Websites such as,, and can give you plenty of pricing information (all of it will be subject to a more detailed application process and medical exam). Show me the money If you bought a $500,000 20-year guaranteed level term policy in 1994 when you were a 40-year-old female nonsmoker, you qualified as “preferred” risk and have been paying about $795 a year. Today you’re 54, and if you’re still in good health, you should be able to replace the remaining six years of the same coverage for $600 a year and get four extra years of coverage, says Byron Udell, founder and chief executive of

Refinance Your Car Loan

Did you know you can refinance a car? Interest rates are likely lower now than when you signed up for car payments several years ago, so you may be able to cut your payment significantly. Generally, banks require your car to be a 2001 model or newer, with fewer than 80,000 miles and a loan balance of $8,500 or more. Give your credit union or bank a call, or apply online at sites like or Show me the money If you started with a 66-month, $19,560 loan at 17.26%, your payments are $461. Refinancing today at 9.29% would drop your payments to $380, for a savings of $81 a month.

Tap into H20

Some people consider bottled water a necessity, even though a great low-cost alternative is available from any faucet in their homes. Try this for just one month: Switch from soft drinks and bottled water to good old tap water, and see how much you end up saving. Show me the money Off the bat you can pocket the $25 to $40 monthly fee if you have bottled water delivered. And drinking tap water is almost free: The average household cost for town water is $2.77 for 1,000 gallons, which would last the average family of four almost three years if they used it only for drinking. And consider this: If you pay $1.50 for a 20-oz bottle of water, you can fill the same container with tap water every day for several years for the same price, says Greg Kail of the American Water Works Association.

Ask for Lower Interest

Call the customer service number on the back of your credit card, and ask to speak with a supervisor. Say that you’re receiving offers to transfer your balance, but you prefer to stay, provided they reduce your interest rate to match the offers. Even if you’re paying a higher interest rate because you were a late payer in the past, Paul Hartwick of Chase Card Services says, “If a customer signs up for automatic payment and makes on-time payments for 12 consecutive months, Chase will reset that customer’s rate to the lower, original rate.” Show me the money If you currently have a $2,500 balance at 18.99%, a rate reduction to 7.99% means $275 in your pocket annually.

Save on Children's Clothes

Possibly the best deals on high-quality, gently worn (often brand-new) kids’ clothes are at consignment and secondhand stores. With more than 230 locations nationwide, the resale chain Once Upon a Child ( features name-brand fairly new clothes up to 70% off retail. And as a bonus, you can sell your children’s gently-worn-but-outgrown items back to the store for immediate cash or credit. When you consider how quickly children outgrow their clothes, paying a lot less makes a lot of sense.

Show me the money Rock & Republic Urban jeans for girls are $154 at a department store. You could expect to find those jeans at a consignment or secondhand store for $46. A boy’s Ralph Lauren polo shirt currently retails for $45. But the price would be slashed to about $13 when sold at 70% off retail at a consignment store.

Source: Woman's Day