Clark Howard is a well-respectedtalk show host,TV reporter, and columniston money-saving issues. In1993 he opened the ConsumerAction Center, an adviceservice for consumerquestions staffed by morethan 140 volunteers.
Book of Bargains
His latest book, , hit stores in April. Inkeeping with his bargain-hunting philosophy,his Web site, www.clarkhoward.com,provides free advice from the book—alongwith additional information from his show.The following are a few highlights:
•Go for used cars—particularly withluxury vehicles. Howard is a great advocateof buying used cars, due to theapproximate 40% depreciation new carsexperience in just 2 or 3 years. However,he recommends avoiding "old-styleused-cars-only lots."Instead, read , check out pricingat www.edmunds.com orwww.kbb.com, and spend$20 for a vehicle historyreport from www.carfax.com. Right now, he reports,used luxury cars are a particularlygood deal. A '95 Saabis down 23% over the pastyear and a 2000 Jaguar XKRis down 19%, vs a typical drop of 17%.
•Be flexible—and patient—abouttravel. This is an area Howard knows well.He founded a travel agency in 1981, builtit into a successful chain across metroAtlanta, and then sold the company in1987 to retire at age 31. For vacation planning,he says to begin your research bylooking for cheap airfares at Internetsites—then decide on a destination. Cheap Tickets, Expedia,Fareaware.com, Hotwire.com, JohnnyJet,One Travel, Orbitz, Travelocity, and TheTrip. (Howard's Travel Tips Page on hisown Web site is also full of great deals tomany worldwide destinations.) The key,he says, is flexibility. "Don't box yourselfinto a set destination for specific traveldates. Another key is to wait, wait somemore, and watch for discounting duringthe season you plan to travel."Keep inmind that the lowest fares are available in"low"season (November 1 to March 31).Slightly higher fares are found in the"shoulder"season (April 1 to May 31 andOctober). "High"season, from mid-Junethrough early September, is obviouslygoing to be the most expensive.
•Look into credit card offers thatactually save money. First and foremost,Howard recommends that you view creditcard purchases as if you were using cash.In other words, "If you can't pay it in 25days, don't buy it."With that in mind,there are some intriguing new card offers.One from Fidelity Investments (fidelityinvestments.com) will help you save foryour child's college education. It pays 2%on purchases with no limit on how muchyou can earn. In other words, for every $1you put on the card, 2 cents goes into asavings plan. Or, you can put money into aRoth IRA or other qualified retirementplan by checking out a credit card fromwww.nesteggz.com. It earns 1% on purchases,so for every $100 you charge, $1goes into a retirement plan.
•Increase deductibles on homeownersinsurance. Howard says to raise yourdeductible to $1000 or $2500. Not onlywill you pay less in annual premiums (hesaved 39% by going to $2500), but alsoyou'll decrease the risk that an insurer willcancel your coverage due to too manyclaims. And here is a bit of common senseit might be easy to overlook: If you videotapeyour house and possessions for documentation,don't store the tape in yourhouse.