Archive for January, 2012

Airfares: Don’t Let the Low Price Fool You, New Rules Help…

Last month my best friend flew to Chicago to attend my book launch party ­for “Get Your Money Right .” After shopping around for her ticket, I have to say—don’t let the low price fool you.

Especially when it comes to Spirit Airlines. On the surface it looks like you’re getting a real bargain. But once you start adding in the extra fees, you may be shocked to find out how much your trip really costs. I’m not talking about the standard fees like for security, facility and taxes either.

With Spirit Airlines she paid $16.99 just to buy her ticket online. They call it a “passenger usage fee” and you pay it each way. So it costs you about $34 roundtrip. Who buys tickets at the airport these days? The airfares are probably higher in person anyway.

Then she had to pay another $30 to carry on her luggage. Yes, you read that right. Spirit charges you for bringing on carry on bags. And there was no way around it because she needed clothes for the weekend. At least she saved $5 for paying in advance.

That’s close to $50 in extra charges on a one-way ticket. After using her $25 coupon code, Spirit was still the cheapest option for a one-way ticket. When shopping around, I encourage you to take into account any additional fees to find the best deal. For example, a round trip ticket on Spirit Airlines purchased online with carry on luggage both ways could cost you an additional $94.

The good news is that the government has made it easier to compare ticket prices across airlines. Starting on January 26th, all airlines are now required to provide full fare advertising including taxes and mandatory fees (so you still have to check optional fees).

According to the Department of Transportation press release – January 23, 2012:

Also beginning this week, passengers will be able to hold a reservation without payment, or cancel a booking without penalty, for 24 hours after the reservation is made, if they make the reservation one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.  In addition, airlines will be required to promptly notify passengers of flight delays of over 30 minutes, as well as flight cancellations and diversions, and they will generally be prohibited from increasing the price of passengers’ ticket after it is bought.

The new rules also will make it easier for passengers to determine the full price they will have to pay for air transportation prior to travel.  (more…)

Chicagoland: Metra Fare Increases Start Feb. 1st

This morning I heard on the news that IL gas prices are the highest ever for this time of year. That’s not surprising if you’ve been to the pump lately. Gas is averaging about $3.69 per gallon/regular. But what really got my attention was to hear Metra fares are increasing up to 30%, starting on Wednesday, February 1st.

Up to 30% – that’s some increase!

Here’s the fare increases Metra riders can expect to pay starting on Wednesday:

Starting on Feb. 1, 2012, one-way tickets will increase an average of 15.7 percent across all fare zones, while 10-ride tickets will go up an average of 30 percent and monthly passes will increase an average of 29.4 percent. Reduced fare one-way tickets will increase an average of 10.3 percent, reduced fare 10-ride tickets will increase an average of 18.9 percent and reduced fare monthly passes will go up an average of 10.8 percent. Taken together, the overall average increase is 25.1 percent.

Metra Fare Increases

One more thing, if you were thinking of stockpiling those 10-ride tickets at today’s lower rate you can forget about it. I bought one of these a few weeks ago and there’s a big RED stamp that only makes it valid through February 29, 2012.

In addition, Metra is immediately changing the expiration dates of one-way and 10-ride tickets in an effort to deter the stockpiling of those tickets before the fare increase begins next year. One-way and 10-ride tickets purchased from Nov. 12, 2011, though January 31, 2012, will be valid only through Feb. 29, 2012. There is no price increase for those tickets during this temporary period. Unused tickets will be reimbursed at the refund policy in effect at the time of purchase.

For more information on Metra fare increases and policy changes starting Feb. 1 click here.

Photo: Ron Cogswell

Categories: News

3 Things to Learn from Athletes Gone Broke

How can an athlete go broke after earning millions of dollars? Some people might say it’s just the fast life. But when you look a little closer, you’ll see what’s really chipping away at their fortunes.

Keep An Eye On Your Money

“When it comes to personal finance, get personal, because it’s your money and no one will ever care more about it than YOU.”

Most athletes trust the people (friends, family, agents and others) around them for professional recommendations. And typically depend on others (financial advisors, accountants, lawyers) to manage their finances. After all, these people have the titles, so they must know what they are doing. Right? Not always.

That’s why you have to stay in control and involved with your finances. It’s important to know where your money is going. What do you owe? How’s your credit? Are bills being paid on time? Unfortunately, a friend of mine (former NFL player) discovered this principle a little late—after someone he trusted lost his money. He learned from his mistake and decided to take control of his money himself. And now he’s doing much better financially.

Live Below Your Means

“Be assured that it gives much more pain to the mind to be in debt, than to do without any article whatever which we may seem to want.” – Thomas Jefferson

Sounds like common sense to spend less than you make. However, many people struggle with this, even athletes earning millions. Believe it or not, during the NFL lockout it was reported that more than 20 percent of the players were living paycheck to paycheck.

You can easily fall into this trap if you have a hard time saying no or when you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses. Living the lavish lifestyle of $200,000+ fast cars, million dollar homes, expensive yachts and pricey jewelry can quickly shrink that multi-million dollar contract. Have you ever heard of the saying, “it’s not how much you make, but how you spend it”? In other words, no matter how much money you earn, you have to control your spending. A great way to do this is to create a financial plan and stick with a budget.

Invest Wisely

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

Bad investment decisions are probably one of the biggest reasons athletes file for bankruptcy. Fortunes have disappeared because of ponzi schemes, real estate losses, con artist scams and poor business ventures.

Of course there’s always risk involved with any investment. But a good rule of thumb is “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” It’s important to work (more…)

Not So Fast! My Warranty’s Not Up…

At first glance, the mailer reads in big bold letters: “REQUEST FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION – TIME SENSITIVE MATERIAL ENCLOSED.” Then to peek your interest, the words “TO BE OPENED BY ADDRESSEE ONLY PLEASE RESPOND WITHIN FIVE DAYS.”

So I open it, just to find out what this sender is really up to. The message inside tells me that my car warranty is expiring and they can help. But of course, I must act now. Let’s see they have the right owner, car make and year too. Guess they have a little bit of credibility?

The solution to my problem seems to be just a call away. They give me their toll free number to extend my vehicle’s coverage. But as Lee Corso says, “Not so fast.” After all, my car warranty isn’t expiring for another year.

But the mailer clearly says it’s “URGENT AND TIME SENSITIVE.” Surely, this mailer is going right into the recycle bin. Pronto!

However, I must say knowing the specifics about your warranty can really save you money. For starters you won’t fall into warranty extension gimmicks. Now if you really need the additional coverage, I encourage you to make sure it’s a reputable company and confirm the coverage is worth paying for (what does it cover? how much does it cost?).

Warranty protection could definitely be a good thing! And it gets even better when retailers (i.e. Costco) or credit card companies automatically extend the manufacturer’s warranty on some purchases. (more…)

Categories: Save Money

5 Steps to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions a Reality

With every passing year, we are given a chance to reflect on the past and start anew. As Oprah Winfrey once said “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

That being said, have you set your New Year’s resolutions yet? Perhaps, there’s something you’d like to improve on this year. And the key to actually making your New Year’s resolutions a reality is how you go about it.

Here are 5 Steps to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions a Reality:

  1. Make the Decision and Be Committed – Whether you want to lose weight, save money, quit smoking or anything else the first step is to make the decision. But making the decision alone is not enough, you must be committed to your goal. In other words, you have to be willing to do what it takes to achieve it.
  2. Set Your New Year’s Resolutions – Now that you’ve decided what you want to achieve, it’s time to write it down. It’s important to be specific about what you want to achieve, make sure it’s realistic and set a target date. For example, instead of just writing I want to lose weight. You could be more specific and write “Lose 25 pounds by June 30, 2012.”  After you’ve written it down layout the actions (e.g. eat healthier, exercise) you’ll need to take to make it happen. Then capture the actions down on paper too.
  3. Find an Accountability Partner – Do you know anyone you trust that you can share your New Year’s resolutions with? This person could be your accountability partner. Someone who will be there to encourage, motivate and hold you accountable for achieving your goals.
  4. Track Your Progress – In order to achieve success you must keep your New Year’s Resolutions in front of you, stay positive about achieving them (better yet, visualize your success also) and track your progress. Tracking your progress will help you identify whether you need to change what you’re doing to get more desirable results.
  5. Celebrate Your Successes – Be sure to do something to recognize your achievements. Keep it simple, but be sure to take the time and celebrate your accomplishments. This will keep you motivated and moving in the right direction!

I wish you all the best in 2012 and beyond.

Feel free to share your thoughts or any other tips. Thanks for reading!

Categories: Life