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Beat the System

Life can get expensive! Eric Harryman shows you how to Beat the System and save some money.

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beat-the-systemSACRAMENTO—

Tonight’s Beat the System is designed to help your health and save you money.

We’re talking about food labels and what they mean – if anything.

Take a look at this list – heart healthy, lowers cholesterol and supports immunity.

For the most part, the FDA has no requirements for those labels. So buying them doesn’t guarantee anything.

Now, let’s look at the labels that do mean something.

-A low calorie food must have fewer than 40 calories per serving.

-A low sodium food can’t have more than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.

-And, if something says “reduced,” like reduced fat milk, that means it has 25% less fat than the original.

Those are all regulated by the FDA.

This article was inspired by this consumer reports article.

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This edition of Beat the System is all about college spending, with advice from Consumer Reports.

Encourage your kids to spend cash, and not with credit or debit cards. Actually seeing how much money you have in your wallet is much more concrete than “invisible” money from a piece of plastic.

Consumer Reports also suggests to remove overdraft protection on debit cards so they can’t be used if there’s no money in the account. Sign up for text or email alerts about account balances, as well.

For more tips, click here.

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This edition of Beat the System covers the dumbest things you can do with a credit card.

We’ll start with paying late. The due date isn’t a suggestion – it’s a hard deadline, according to Credit.com. Paying late could include extra fees, a drop in your credit score and possibly being rejected for future cards.

Maxing out your credit is also a bad idea, unless you’re in crisis. Creditors watch how close your balance is to your limit, which factors into your credit score.

If you’re someone who only does the minimum payment every month, you’ll probably be paying a lot extra. We did the math on paying off a $500 balance with a minimum payment of 2.5 percent. If your card charges 10 percent interest, it’ll take more than five years to pay off and you’ll waste more than $130 on interest charges.

These are just some of the dumb things you can do with a credit card. For more, click here.

beat-the-systemSACRAMENTO—

I know you probably don’t want to hear it, but taxes are due in nine months. We’re here to help.

In tonight’s beat the system, what you can and can’t deduct when you’re job hunting.

Let’s start with what is tax deductible:

-Fees paid to job placement agencies.

-Costs of printing and mailing resumes.

-Travel expenses if you’re doing an out of town job search – although this doesn’t apply if you combine interviews with a vacation.

You can’t deduct job search expenses if it’s your first job, or your first job in a new market.

It’s also not deductible if someone is already reimbursing your costs, like your current employer.

Our thanks to the Sacramento Bee’s personal finance blog for these ideas.

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End caps, those nicely-arranged displays at the end of each aisle, can be a great spot to find a sale. Sometimes.

They often feature “twin” items, like peanut butter and jelly or chips and salsa. You’ll probably end up paying less for just one of those items.

The displays can also be home to items discounted because they are nearing their expiration dates.

You can avoid the end cap trap by tracking the prices of things you buy most. That way, you’ll be quick to recognize a good deal.

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We beat last week’s heat wave, and now it’s time to beat the system by talking energy-saving tips.

Let’s go by time of day.

Before you leave for work, turn up your thermostat a few degrees if your home is empty. Shut your blinds and curtains to keep out the sun.

If you’re really pinching pennies, unplug as many devices as you can before you head out the door.

When you get home, try making dinner in the microwave instead of the stove. It uses less energy and won’t heat your house as much. When you’re done with your meal, delay your dish washing as late as possible to avoid peak hours.

If you hit the hay, turn off your air conditioner and open the windows. Let nature cool you off for free.

For more energy-saving tips, click here.

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A number everyone should know is their credit score.

In this edition of Beat the System, we’ll take a look at what really affects your and doesn’t really matter, thanks to Credit.com.

The big deal – payment history. That means pay all of your bills on time, all of the time.

How long have you had your accounts? That is also very influential, and so is the percent of your limit that you use. Credit.com recommends keeping your debt lower than 30 percent of your limit.

Recent credit inquiries, on the other hand, don’t matter much. Just try to keep from opening too many accounts too quickly.

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Every Wednesday, new grocery sales come out but sometimes food prices can still be a little too steep.

This edition of Beat the System is all about the best foods to buy when you’re broke.

Beans are a basic staple and can go into all kinds of foods. If you’re really pinching pennies, buy dried beans instead of canned ones.

A dozen eggs only costs $2 or $3, and are one of the highest-quality proteins you can buy.

At $2 a pound, frozen green peas require no prep work and zero time; just add them to a meal.

And finally, one that may surprise you – nonfat Greek yogurt. The trick is to buy a large container and not the individual sizes. That way, the per-serving price drops to about a dollar and gives you as much protein as a three-ounce serving of meat.

For more foods to buy when you’re broke, check out Money Talks News’ post here.

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As Father’s Day approaches, we thought we’d turn to dad for some financial advice with some updates, thanks to Credit.com.

Ever hear dad say pay cash for everything?

While it’s true that should buy what you can’t afford, you can’t build credit by only paying cash.

Dad also might have used to say, “Don’t owe anyone anything.”

Nowadays, it’s healthy to owe someone and pay it off. That’s how you build good credit, which can help you get the best rates for big purchases like a car or a house.

Then, there are the obvious dad tips like “go to college” and “get a job.”

These days, that’s just the start of a career, not the last step. Don’t let your skills get rusty.

For more updated fatherly financial advice, click here.

Kate Eby and Ian McDonald contributed to this post.

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