By Janet Groene, F47166
With Thanksgiving coming up later this month, consider this column a cornucopia of reminders, news, and views for those on the go.
One more time
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington, D.C., more than 100,000 fires each year are associated with cooking equipment, many from burners left unattended. So before leaving your motorhome, make a habit of checking to be sure all burners are turned off.
Prevent towing thefts
To help prevent your vehicles “” motorhome and towed “” from being stolen, State Farm Insurance suggests turning the wheels toward the curb and setting the parking brake when parking on the street. This suggestion also can be useful if you must leave a disabled coach on the street and go for help. You also should make sure to close and lock all windows and lock the doors whenever you leave the vehicle for any length of time.
Also from State Farm comes a warning that improperly wired DSL Internet service can sometimes prevent an alarm system from transmitting signals to the monitoring station. If your alarm relies on DSL, talk to the alarm company and the phone company about remedies.
Whether you’re a doodler or a serious cartoonist, the “1-2-3 Draw” series from Peel Productions provides hours of fun using only paper and pencil. Already published in the series are books on how to draw pets, wild animals, knights and dragons, cars and trucks, and much more. Coming in December is 1-2-3 Draw Baby Animals ($8.99). Author Freddie Levin shows how to draw little critters using easy steps that anyone can follow. The books are ideal for children as well as for adults.
Kiplinger’s magazine was the victim of unauthorized subscription sellers and warns others against a commonplace practice. A renewal notice comes from a company that is not authorized by the publisher. You send in the money, which may never be sent to the publisher at all or could be sent for a lesser subscription than you thought you were getting. You’ll see addresses inside every magazine, including one that is the official fulfillment site for subscriptions. Before dashing off a check to renew your favorite magazine, double-check your expiration date and look at the return address on the renewal notice. “I also advise you not to buy a subscription from anyone on [an online auction site],” warned Kiplinger’s editor Fred Frailey, who found an online offer that he said his magazine would never honor.
Debit at the fuel pump
The penalty for going over your debit card limit can be $20 or more. Fees for bounced checks may be even higher. Don’t risk using your debit card at the fuel pump unless you keep a generous cushion of cash in the account. Here’s why. With fill-ups costing in three figures these days, gas stations have started debiting up to $100 or more automatically, before you start pumping, just to make sure there is enough in the account to cover the full cost.
If you’re running low on funds and just want $20 worth of fuel to tide you over, you may not realize that a $100 hold will be put on your debit account. Worse still, it will stay there for up to three days (the time it takes for the gas station to send in its reports). Meanwhile, if you write a check or use the debit card again for an amount you think you have in the account, it could be returned or the purchase denied for insufficient funds.
If you must use a debit card for fuel, ask in advance how much of a hold will be placed on your account. Better still, either keep a wide margin of cash in the account for such “holds” or use a credit card for which you have a sufficient limit.
We love the shopping, savings, and spacious free parking at the nation’s nearly 300 outlet centers, but there are tricks to the trade. The term “factory store” means that the merchandise was made for outlet sale and is probably made to lesser specs than the same item made for better stores. “Factory second” or “irregular” merchandise, on the other hand, was probably made to regular specs but has a flaw that may be inconsequential as far as you’re concerned. There are also bargains in overstocks, over-runs, sales samples, and other oddments. Check Web sites such as www.outletbound.com and www.premiumoutlets.com for outlet news and also coupons for discounts, perks, and freebies.
Include me out
If you’re receiving unwanted offers in the mail for new credit cards and would like them to stop, call (888) 5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com.
Have a fit
A fitness routine that you can accomplish in 30 minutes a day, three times per week, even in small spaces such as an RV, is outlined in a nifty new book, The Fit Traveler: Senior Edition ($17.95, Publishers Design Group). With the compact hardcover book comes a resistance band that’s tucked inside the cover. It’s used in the fitness routines described in the book.
Bank on it
I hadn’t been inside a bank in more than a year, but an hour-long visit to a branch bank recently paid big dividends. If you bank online or by mail, consider a one-on-one visit with a banker to see where you can tune up your accounts. It’s likely you can earn more interest; get lower rates on loans; find free checking or a discounted safe-deposit box; and get newer credit, debit, and/or ATM cards that are better suited for life on the go. Ask, too, about any new discounts that apply since your last birthday. Some banks have special perks for people who are 50 or 55 and older.
The constant shuffling of credit card features is confusing, but it can mean better-than-ever deals for full-timers who (1) use rebate cards and (2) pay off the balance on time every month. Interest rates on cash-back cards are usually higher, but that doesn’t matter to those who don’t have to pay interest. Read the ever-changing rules, stay nimble, and change cards if you find a better deal. Many of the major cards have gone to a 2 percent rebate rather than 1 percent. Although some companies offer a 5 percent kickback on fuel purchases, it’s usually for a temporary period.
Our bank also was offering a choice of more than two dozen “affinity” credit cards. You’ve seen credit cards that bear the logos of special-interest groups ranging from colleges to causes. Some provide a rebate to you plus a donation to the charity or organization. Some pay the entire rebate to the cause. Some are merely decorative. It’s an interesting gimmick to have a card that advertises your favorite football team or donates to your favorite charity, but know exactly what you’re getting and giving.
Your opinions needed
If you’re willing to participate in a full-timers forum by e-mail, please let me know at [email protected], including “FMCA” in the subject line. From time to time, I will e-mail a question to forum members, requesting opinions on some aspect of full-timing. Replies will be reported in this column. You may be anonymous if you wish.
Full-timer’s question of the month
Security watchdogs tell us it’s essential that we don’t give criminals a chance to see our canceled checks, account numbers, PINs, passwords, and other personal information. How do you handle shredding or other paper disposal? Do you find commercial shredders in your travels? Carry a personal shredder? Trust your luck? Please send your answer to me at Family Motor Coaching, 8291 Clough Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45244 by December 15; or e-mail [email protected]. Let me know something about your situation, and whether you want your name used. Thank you!