Rags to Help You Keep Your Riches
These newsletters could change your financial life for the better
(MONEY Magazine) – Thanks to the Internet, money-oriented newsletters are a dying breed. And most deserve to go. All too often, the advice they dole out is too vague or obvious (Dine out less often!). Sometimes the ideas are misleading or downright nuts (Put all your retirement savings in one stock!). But there are still a few newsletters left that are filled with fresh, practical and sometimes quirky ideas that can really save you money. The four below are easily worth the price.
• Best for One-Stop Advice Shopping Bottom Line Personal ($39 for 24 issues; 800-274-5611; bottomlinesecrets.com)
• WHAT IT IS Ideal for the well-intentioned but busy reader, this newsletter offers boiled-down interviews with both well-known and utterly obscure experts on topics ranging from real estate to estate planning and health care. Recent articles tackled how to calculate the true cost of debt, ways to help adult kids launch careers and strategies to save money on energy costs from a director at the nonprofit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. (Hint: Maybe it's finally time to buy that new furnace.)
• WHY IT'S WORTH IT Bottom Line has one big goal: to deliver tons of actionable advice in each issue. And it fulfills the mission admirably. Each article lists general strategies for dealing with the financial challenge at hand, followed by specific tips and resources, in a no-nonsense style. Count on always learning at least a few things you didn't know.
• SAMPLE TIP Be a Boy Scout: Overdue library books and unpaid traffic fines may lower your credit score.
• Best Inspiration to Ditch Your Debt Debt-Proof Living ($24 for 12 issues; 800-550-3502; debtproofliving.com)
• WHAT IT IS Mary Hunt ran up $100,000 in card debt back in the early '80s--and the goal of her monthly newsletter is to protect you from a similar fate. She presents entertaining and instructive stories about real people (including herself) who are struggling to cope with money problems. Recently she has been advising a single mother of two, "Lucy Bee," who burst into tears when she reviewed a month's worth of spending records. These stories don't necessarily have happy endings, but they always have something to teach readers.
• WHY IT'S WORTH IT Hunt has been there and back, and it shows. A financial planner might offer many of the same recommendations, but Hunt's empathetic, real-world approach makes the advice somehow seem more palatable--and achievable.
• SAMPLE TIP "Never use one of those horrible convenience checks tied to your credit-card account for any purpose. Shred them!"
• Best for Aspiring Penny Pinchers ThriftyFun News (no charge; weekly; thriftyfun.com)
• WHAT IT IS Think of this as an online newsletter for thrift addicts. Readers contribute ideas each week on a precise theme--saving money on meat, say, or Valentine's Day on a budget. There are also daily "thrifty tips" on a variety of topics. The editors filter out most of the dross for advice that is clear, concise and (by and large) practical.
• WHY IT'S WORTH IT ThriftyFun News somehow fulfills the promise of its wonderfully cheesy name, suggesting that thrift can indeed be fun. Plus, it's fascinating--and a little inspiring--to see ordinary Americans devote themselves to the neglected art of mindful and creative consumption.
• SAMPLE TIP Check to see if your refrigerator's seal is tight enough by closing the door on a dollar bill. If you can pull it out easily, your gaskets are going--and you're wasting money on electricity and food that will spoil too quickly.
• Best for Vacationers on a Budget Travel Smart ($39 for 12 issues; 800-327-3633; travelsmartnewsletter.com)
• WHAT IT IS This 14-page newsletter offers cost-conscious recommendations for travel programs, destinations and related merchandise, plus tips on everything from paying your bills while on vacation to saving on travel insurance.
• WHY IT'S WORTH IT Editor Nancy Dunnan is a respected financial journalist who keeps price firmly in focus when evaluating travel options. She lists monthly deals (an all-inclusive week in Vienna and Salzburg for under $1,000; $49 round-trip air fare to Bermuda), as well as more general advice about how to save money while on vacation.
• SAMPLE TIP Read the fine print: Most airline reward cards charge about six percentage points more in interest than non-reward cards.