Black Friday Trends and Tips

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, seems to be starting earlier every year. First we saw stores opening to hordes of shoppers at 4 a.m. Friday, then at 3 a.m., a few years back. Now some big-box retailers aren’t even waiting that long. They’re opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day this year, hoping families will eat and run to the nearest mall. >> Sign up for the AARP Money newsletter So what …

5 Tips to Curb Holiday Travel Costs

Holiday travel these days is a Santa-sized hassle and it can be a real budget buster as well. To curb your travel expenses, consider these tips: Leave your wheels parked at home. Since most rental cars nowadays come with competitive rates and unlimited free miles, it may pay to rent a car — and prolong the life expectancy of your own wheels. You might also be able to save on gas costs by renting a more fuel efficient car than …

Holiday Shopping: Will You Spend Less?

This could very well be the year when the Grinch steals Christmas, at least in terms of the gift-giving intentions of some adults. According to a new poll from the personal finance website GoBankingRates.com, 40 percent of some 1,500 survey respondents say they won’t be buying any holiday gifts this year. Blame the economy and the shaky finances of many Americans. The holidays only add to their stress and here’s why: 63 percent of those polled admit they haven’t set …

Programmable Thermostats: Savings or Not?

A couple of years ago I wrote an article for AARP about simple ways to reduce the cost of heating your home. After reading it, my wife promptly added a number of the energy-saving tips I’d suggested to my “honey-do” list, including installing three programmable thermostats around our house. The good news was that the new thermostats were inexpensive and easy to install. We found a three-pack on sale at a home improvement center for  $70, and, much to my …

Solar Panels: Rent, Buy or Skip?

Whether you’re concerned about saving the environment or just interested in saving yourself a few bucks, equipping your house with a solar energy system is an interesting, albeit rather complicated, proposition to consider. The cost of installing a residential solar system has fallen dramatically over the years. Now a number of companies have started programs to lease, instead of sell, solar energy equipment to homeowners, some in partnership with home improvement centers including Lowes and Home Depot. Sign up for …

Catch Your Storm-Water Rebate

Rarely does a piece of mail from our local county government contain good news. It’s typically a property tax bill or a notice that our trash-collection fees are going up again. But the other day I received news from the county and it made my inner cheapskate sit up and take notice. Like an increasing number of counties and municipalities across the country, our county has initiated a Rain Check Rebate Program, designed to encourage property owners to take steps …