How I Converted a $5 Cable Fee into a Trip to Europe

Can a little $5 fee mutate into a $600 monster? Yes, it happened to me — and it could be happening to you.

Some of us need our 220 channels of entertainment bliss, and that’s OK. But if you want to get away from the TV noise, have a little more time or, like me, want some extra cash, then take a good look at your cable bill.

When I studied my bill, I realized that the basic cable subscription that Comcast sold me for $5 a month was costing me $25 a month — $607 over the course of a two-year contract.

Although I’m going to talk about Comcast’s Xfinity service, you can take the same steps I did regardless of what pay-TV service you use.

How my $5 cable fee ballooned to $600

I’m not a big fan of cable programming, but I need high-speed internet for work. When Xfinity offered to add basic cable to my two-year internet contract for $5 a month, though, I didn’t refuse.

What’s $5, a coffee? A cheap hamburger? You might as well add it, right? Well, that $5 ended up costing me hundreds of dollars.

Technically, the addition of basic cable cost $120 over two years. But by subscribing to cable, I was roped into also paying $12.50 a month in broadcast TV and regional sports fees and an extra $7.81 a month in taxes and surcharges.

So subscribing to basic cable for $5 ended up increasing my bill by a total of $25.31 every month. And over the course of two years, a subscription that I thought would have cost $120 ballooned to $607.44 after adding the extra charges.

What happened when I quit cable

In July 2018, the two-year sign-up special ended and the internet /TV bundle that previously costed $94 increased to $110, increasing the extra taxes and surcharges with it. My statement totaled roughly $141. So one year’s worth of this bundle would have cost $1,692.

Here’s the kicker: Xfinity was offering my same internet speed at a lower price to new customers. That’s right — they jacked my bill up while charging new customers less money for the same service.

So after talking with an Xfinity representative, I cut my package down strictly to internet with the new lower price. That brought the total on my statement to about $80. That’s an estimated savings of $732 over one year.

The bottom line

If you’re trying to find some extra cash, look at your cable bill like I did. With the money I saved, my wife and I went to Greece instead of watching it on the Travel Channel.

If you’re not ready to give up TV entirely, check out “Streaming Versus Cable: the Confusing Costs of Cutting the Cord.” It will help you determine whether you could save some money by switching to a streaming TV service.

Adrian Freeman contributed to this post.

10 Money Moves You Need to Make in Your 20s

If you are fresh out of high school or college, you have an amazing opportunity.

People in their 20s can build a solid financial foundation that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Perhaps you plan to live lean and save a pile of cash. Or, if you’ve gotten off to a bad start and made a few money mistakes, take heart: You’ve got plenty of time to reverse those errors and get back on your feet.

To make the most of your fresh start in life, here are 10 money moves you need to put into action:

1. Start a retirement account

Andrey_Popov /

I know, retirement isn’t even a blip on your radar screen. But it will never be easier to start saving than right now.

By putting money in an account in your 20s, you maximize the near-magical phenomenon of compound interest. As Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson says, it’s far better to start saving small amounts early than to be forced to save a lot late.

Your employer may offer you a 401(k), which is the easiest way to save. The money comes right out of your paycheck, so you’ll never miss it. Plus, many employers will match your contribution up to a certain percentage.

If a 401(k) isn’t available through your job, start an IRA instead.

2. Discover your risk tolerance

woman with cape

woman with cape
El Nariz /

Once you open an account, you’ll have to decide how to invest your money. Most investors need to strike a balance — you don’t want to take too much risk, but it’s also a mistake to take too little.

Being young, you probably don’t have a lot of money — or a ton of investing experience. So, to get started, check out Stacy’s tips in “2-Minute Money Manager: How Do You Start Investing With Little Money?

3. Write down your goals

jajam_e /

You don’t have to map out your entire life. Heck, you don’t even have to stick with any plans you create. You’re free to change them at any time.

However, having an idea of where you want to go in life will make it easier to make smart financial decisions. Then, you won’t end up at 40, eyeing your friend’s summer home and feeling sorry for yourself that you can’t buy one, too.

4. Consider paying cash for most things

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Personally, I think being able to pay cash for nearly everything is life-changing. Those of you who have been up to your eyeballs in debt — and had the embarrassing experience of your credit card being declined — know what I’m talking about.

Tell yourself you’ll be the type of person who always pays cash. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever take out a loan, and it doesn’t mean you won’t ever get a rewards credit card that you pay off each month. It does mean you might think a little longer and harder about going into debt, and only do so if there are no other options.

5. Create a budget that supports your goals

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I won’t spend too much time on this money move because we already have an excellent article: Resolutions 2019: Budget Your Way to Financial Goals.”

The key is to ensure your budget supports your goals. If you hope to be married or buy a house in five years, you’ll want to have extra savings built into your budget for those things.

6. Create an emergency fund

Daniel Wiedemann /

Your budget also needs to include a line-item for emergency savings. This money should be separate from your retirement fund, so don’t think your 401(k) or IRA counts.

And emergency fund is your insurance against unexpected expenses. You should have enough money in your fund to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses. For more, check out “9 Ways to Build an Emergency Fund When Money’s Tight.”

7. Pay off your debt

Gustavo Frazao /

In a perfect world, you’d start your adult life with zero debt. But reality is probably different for you. There are student loans to pay, and you may have been suckered into opening a credit card or financing a car somewhere along the way.

Don’t use the excuse that past mistakes give you license to make future mistakes. They also don’t mean you have to resign yourself to living a life burdened by debt.

Start today to pay off what you owe. For more tips, check out “How to Pay Off $10,000 in Debt Without Breaking a Sweat.”

The 25 Most Ridiculous Business Names Out There

Shocked businessman

Shocked businessman
Billion Photos /

It’s amazing how many bad ideas actually turn into business brands.

These are the company or product names that make you wonder: What were they thinking? Were they clueless? Did the marketing director not have access to an internet search engine, or at least a dictionary?

Just for the fun of it, we pulled together this roster of the worst company names — maybe someone’s late-night ideas that don’t really hold up to the light of day.

Our criteria for this completely subjective list include:

  • Incredibly poor taste
  • Groan-worthy or nausea-inducing puns
  • URL fails

And now, in no particular order — but starting with a name that tops the category of “incredibly poor taste”…

The 10 Worst Home Renovations for Your Money

Andy Dean Photography /

Whether remodeling will be a wise investment depends largely on what you renovate and to what extent.

Smaller projects pay back better, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report. For example, replacing your front door at a cost of about $1,800 can yield an average return of 74.9% when you sell the home. Major makeovers recoup considerably less.

The report looks at national average costs for 22 projects, including how well they recoup value at resale. Some are “upscale” jobs; others are “midrange” in cost. None totally recover their cost.

Money is just one way to measure an outcome, of course. Many upgrades pay off in satisfaction and enjoyment.

Here, from bad to worst, are projects that are particularly poor choices for payback, based on Remodeling Magazine’s report.

8 Ways to Cut Your Summer Cooling Costs

Heating and cooling a home are among the largest energy expenses most Americans face, says the U.S. Department of Energy.

Right now, you might be enjoying low utility bills, especially if you live in a climate with perfect spring weather. But the “I can’t believe it’s this hot!” summer days are coming. Soon, you’ll run the air conditioning around the clock just to stay comfortable.

That could cost you a lot of money if your system isn’t ready. These simple steps can prepare your AC for the warmer summer months.

1. Change the filters

Air conditioner filter

Air conditioner filter
photopixel /

This is probably the easiest form of air-conditioning maintenance, but many people don’t do it often enough. The filters should be replaced every month or two to keep your AC running smoothly, says the U.S. Department of Energy.

You can order new filters through Amazon, Walmart or other retailers.

2. Clean the condensation lines

Man doing yoga in flooded living room

Man doing yoga in flooded living room
Robert Kneschke /

The pipe that carries condensation away from your air conditioner can get clogged. If the pipe becomes clogged, it could back up into the air conditioner — or into your house — and you’ll have a messy problem and a big repair bill.

To combat this, locate where the pipe drains out and make sure it’s draining properly.

3. Install a programmable thermostat

Man adjusting thermostate

Man adjusting thermostate
Lopolo /

If you don’t already have one, you can gain significant energy savings by installing a programmable thermostat and setting it to reduce the use of air conditioning or heat at times when you don’t need it, like when you’re away for work. Fortunately, these thermostats are pretty easy to install yourself and require only a couple of tools.

Consider an array of programmable thermostat options at The Home Depot.

4. Clean the coils on the outside unit

Racoon on air conditioner

Racoon on air conditioner
Elliotte Rusty Harold /

During the winter, your AC’s outside unit has been collecting dust, mud and other debris, especially if you don’t use a cover. All of that gunk clogs up the unit, causing your AC to run sluggishly.

For lightly soiled units, disconnect the power and spray down the outside of the unit with a garden hose. For heavily soiled units, buy a commercial air-conditioner cleaner from a hardware store.

5. Clean the fins

Dirty air conditioner

Dirty air conditioner
luis2499 /

Cleaning the fins on an outside unit will help your AC run better. To clean the fins, use a soft brush such as a toothbrush or small car cleaning brush. Gently run the brush across each fin, being careful not to bend the thin metal.

If you do find that these thin metal fins are damaged, there are a variety of tools you can use to straighten them out, such as these at Amazon.

6. Check the concrete slab

Air conditioning unit outside.

Air conditioning unit outside.
vincent noel /

After your outside unit is clean, use a level to make sure the concrete slab is level. If it’s not, the unit will have to work harder to keep your house cool.

If the slab isn’t level, pry it up with a board and add gravel underneath in small amounts until it is. Remove the board when you’re done.

7. Remove debris around the outside unit

Air conditioner with ivy growing on it.

Air conditioner with ivy growing on it.
PranFoto /

Plants, leaves, high grass and debris located close to your outside unit can reduce your AC’s performance. Before you start running your AC, cut the grass, clean out any debris and consider removing plants that block the unit.

During the summer, check the unit for debris at least once a month.

8. Check the ductwork for leaks

Ventilation duct work.

Ventilation duct work.
Pamela Au /

According to the University of Florida, sealing leaky ducts can generate significant savings on heating and cooling:

“Leaky ducts make your HVAC work much harder — ducts leaking just 20% of the conditioned air passing through them cause your system to work 50% harder.”

Look for disconnected joints, separated pieces and small holes in your ductwork. If you find leaks, seal them with tape carrying an Underwriters Laboratories logo. Fabric and rubber-backed tapes break down quicker.

What measures do you take to stay cool and save energy in the summer? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

18 Things Your Grandchildren Will Never Understand

VGstockstudio /

I handed the floppy disk to a third-grader and asked him what he thought it was.

“A … bottle opener?” he wondered.

Somewhere, the ghosts of the 1980s were smiling.

But I get it. To a kid for whom floppy disks are as unfamiliar as buggy whips, “bottle opener” was a darn good guess.

I’ve co-written two books on the lost toys, tastes and trends of past generations — “Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?” and “The Totally Sweet ’90s.” That’s brought home to me how quickly things I took for granted growing up have been transformed into museum pieces.

I’m a firm believer that kids should learn about what the world was like when their parents and grandparents were growing up. Record players and in-car ashtrays can be lessons in how a previous generation was raised, reminding us of what was important, creating connections and sparking conversations.

See if the following relics stir up memories and conversations for you.

The Best Company to Work for in Every State

sirtravelalot /

Ready for a career change?

In today’s tight job market, workers have more power to demand higher salaries and better benefits than they did in years past. That means you can probably be a little choosy about where you land next.

Why not shoot for the best employer in your state?

The career website Zippia analyzed employer data from all 50 states to determine the best of the best. It assigned each company a “Zippia Score” based on such factors as pay and diversity as well as a company’s financial health. Zippia has shared its latest findings with Money Talks News.

While not every company may fit your occupation or skill set, take a moment to check out the best business to work for in your state.

9 Ways to Slash the Cost of Motorcycle Insurance

It’s spring, and that means motorcycles across the nation are hitting the open road once again.

If you would rather spend your summers atop a bike, we’ve got some tips for you. Motorcycle insurance is a necessity, but it doesn’t necessarily have to bust your budget.

Here are some tips to keep your costs down:

1. Get a quote from your car insurance company

Man across desk from woman.

Man across desk from woman.
Antonio Guillem /

Before you run out and find a new motorcycle insurance company, start with the one that already has your auto insurance business. Many insurers offer multiple-policy discounts, which means you might get a better deal if you combine a motorcycle policy with your current auto coverage.

2. Shop around for a better deal

Guy looking at two papers

Guy looking at two papers
Antonio Guillem /

After you check with your current insurer, look around. Don’t simply assume your current insurer has the best place to park your coverage.

Instead, take that quote from your existing carrier and compare it with quotes from other companies. Most auto insurance companies offer coverage for motorcycles, and some specialty carriers, such as Rider Insurance, provide bike coverage exclusively.

3. Look for companies that offer the most discounts

Hand with percentage signs.

Hand with percentage signs.
Natali_ Mis /

If you want the best price, look for the company that offers the most discounts. These are some common discounts for motorcyclists:

  • Mature rider discount — not necessarily for “old” riders, but for those with several years of riding under their belt.
  • Paid-in-full discount for those who pay their premium in one lump sum.
  • Responsible driver discount for those with no claims.
  • Multibike discount.
  • Anti-lock brake discount.
  • Continuous coverage discount — for those who don’t cancel in the winter, then sign back up in better driving weather.

4. Take a motorcycle safety class

Motorcycle driving among traffic cones.

Motorcycle driving among traffic cones.
sonsam /

One of the best ways to get a discount is to take a motorcycle safety class. Not only will it save you money on insurance now, but it could reap benefits in the long run if it helps you ride better and keep your record claim-free.

For example, Geico offers a 10% discount for those taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation or Military Safety Course. If you have some free time on your hands, you could double that and become a Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, a title that will earn you a 20% discount from Geico.

15 Great Graduation Gifts That Are Friendly to Your Budget

Photo by VGstockstudio /

It’s almost that time of year — gowns donned and diplomas handed out. Yes, the little boys and girls you once knew are now young men and women graduating from high school and college.

Now that they are adults, get your graduates something useful that will give them a head start on life. Here are some practical graduation gifts suitable for high school or college grads.

1. Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime
Ttatty /

Amazon is the go-to shopping portal for everything from gadgets to groceries. With Amazon Prime, your graduate gets free two-day shipping as well as free streaming for Prime Video and Prime Music. Graduates can also get e-books, e-magazines and more for free through Prime Reading.

A three-month Amazon Prime membership is $38.97, or you can buy a whole year for $119.

2. Netflix, Hulu or YouTube TV

Twin Design /

Cable television is expensive. Fortunately, there are many good streaming options nowadays. Netflix is great for movies, TV shows and original programming. Hulu and Philo also provide the option to stream live TV.

You can buy Netflix gift cards in a variety of denominations on Amazon. The options include e-gift cards that you can have sent to the recipient’s inbox immediately or at another time of your choosing.

3. Box of kitchen supplies

Christin Lola /

If your graduate is moving away from home after getting a diploma or degree, he or she will need to stock their new digs. Help out by giving them a collection of kitchen supplies.

The contents will vary depending on whether they are moving to an apartment, house or dorm. Include inexpensive small appliances, such as a toaster or hot plate. Also throw in pots and pans, measuring spoons and dishes.

4. Towels or linens

Peangdao /

Help your new grad stock up on high-quality items that won’t go threadbare in a month.

While it can be tempting to buy a sheet set, these can be tricky to gift unless you know the recipient’s bed size and fabric preference. For example, while some folks love flannel sheets, others want nothing but cotton. For that reason, bath towels and kitchen linens may be a safer bet.

5. Tool kit

KnottoSS /

Even those who aren’t handy can benefit from having a tool kit. You can buy a toolbox with the contents already assembled or put together your own. Essentials for any box include:

  • Hammer
  • Wall hangers
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Measuring tape

6. Luggage / Money Talks News

Even if your graduate doesn’t have wanderlust, he or she could probably still benefit from having a good piece of luggage standing by. Look for one that can be used as a carry-on for flights.

Luggage can be expensive, but you don’t have to break the bank to get your graduate a nice carry-on bag. Many quality brands are available for less than $100 — or just a bit more, like this highly rated Delsey carry-on.

7. Noise-canceling headphones

Teen listening to music on headphones

Teen listening to music on headphones
Milica Nistoran /

Noise-canceling headphones make it easier to concentrate in loud environments.

While top-of-the-line noise-canceling headphones will set you back a couple hundred dollars, there are cheaper versions available. One best-selling model from TaoTronics is for sale for a relative pittance at Amazon.

8. Portable charger

StaceStock /

These handy devices ensure your graduate won’t get stuck with a dead cellphone or other wireless device. Although there are high-end portable chargers available, many highly rated models can be purchased for less than $50. Look for one that offers fast-charging, and wireless charging is a nice perk as well.

9. Cloud storage /

Cloud storage offers a simple way to sync up files and save them for online retrieval should something go wrong with a computer or other device. Many cloud storage services offer a free version with limited features, but you could give your graduate a paid service for more bells and whistles.

For instance, for $69.99, Microsoft OneDrive will give your favorite student a year of cloud service through Office 365 Personal. He or she gets not only 1TB of storage space on OneDrive, but access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other applications as well.

10. Roadside assistance

Kittisak Jirasittichai /

Shocking as it may seem, fixing flat tires is not a life skill taught in most schools. Make sure your graduate has a Plan B available when he or she can’t decipher the cryptic description in the owner’s manual about how to release the spare tire.

AAA is the granddaddy of auto clubs offering roadside assistance services. Costs vary depending on where you live, but services typically include things such as four 100-mile tows, emergency starting, flat tire replacement and more. An alternative is the Allstate Motor Club.

5 Ways to Save Money on Every Online Purchase

The digital age is an awesome time to be a shopper.

If you use tools available through websites, credit cards and gift cards, you can score at least 10% off most purchases. And as a bonus, you don’t have to wait for sales or search for coupons.

Following are five simple steps that can help you save on anything you need to buy. Learn these tips, and you will not go back to paying full price — or waiting for a sale.

Step 1: Find a discounted gift card

Stack of gift cards.

Stack of gift cards.
Iryna Tiumentseva /

The first step to savings is to buy a gift card — but not just any old gift card. Instead, you want to head to a website specializing in reselling gift cards at a discounted rate. is one of the biggest sites in the gift card reselling business.

Sites like Raise let individuals with unwanted gift cards unload them by selling the cards to others at a discount. While the sites advertise discounts of as much as 35%, you’re typically going to save less than 10% with most cards. Still, that’s a great deal.

You can learn more about discounted cards in our article “How Unwanted Gift Cards Save Me Hundreds of Dollars a Year.”

Step 2: Buy through a rebate site

Computer with "Cash Back" on screen.

Computer with "Cash Back" on screen.
one photo /

If you’re buying online, make your purchase through a rebate or “cash-back” site. These sites often offer an additional 3% or 4% off your purchase. You’ll pay the full amount when you buy, but receive the discount back in the form of a rebate.

These are some of the most popular rebate sites:

Getting started with a cash-back site is simple. You sign up, then visit the site before shopping online.

For example, say you want to shop online at Kohl’s. Instead of going directly to, start at a cash-back site, click on a link to the Kohl’s page, then begin shopping. When you buy something, you’ll earn money from the cash-back site.

There’s no catch. Cash-back sites simply are sharing with you the commission they get from participating stores when you make a purchase.

Before shopping, check out the store availability and terms at the rebate sites. Some sites send checks automatically every few months, while others require you to request a payment once you hit a minimum amount in your account. Participating retailers and rebate amounts vary among sites.

For more on using this great shopping technique, check out “3 Websites That Pay You for Shopping.”

Step 3: Use a cash-back credit card

Woman holding credit card, looking at computer

Woman holding credit card, looking at computer
pathdoc /

Another way to take a slice out of your costs is to use a great cash-back or rewards credit card.

Looking for a great cash-back card? Check out the “cash back” category in our Solutions Center’s credit cards section.

Depending on the card and what you’re buying, you will generally save anywhere from 1% to 5% on your purchase — and sometimes more. As with rebate sites, you’ll pay the full price at purchase but receive the cash back as a rebate or statement credit.

Of course, using a credit card comes with the caveat that you must pay off your balance when the bill arrives. Paying interest on a credit card is a surefire way to negate your savings.

Step 4: Abandon your shopping cart

Empty shopping cart.

Empty shopping cart.
Duangnapa Kanchanasakun /

Online retailers track your every move. It’s undoubtedly distressing to them when you load up with a cartload of stuff, only to close the tab on your browser and move along. That’s why you might find a coupon code landing in your mailbox a day or two after you leave your cart.

To get this trick to work, you need to be logged in to your account so the retailer knows who abandoned the cart. Then, put your items in the cart and leave the site. The list of retailers who offer codes to those with abandoned carts is fluid, but lists a bunch that have been known to dole out the discounts.

Step 5: Sign up for the mailing list

Person typing on keyboard.

Person typing on keyboard.
Who is Danny /

Some retailers issue one-time use codes. To get these, you need to be on the VIP list, aka the mailing list. Sign up to receive newsletters from your favorite stores so you can get discount codes and sales announcements delivered straight to your inbox.

Just be sure to use a secondary email address so these messages don’t overwhelm your primary account.

Do you have other ideas for saving money on your online purchases? Share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson contributed to this post.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.