Archive for June, 2011

Clark Howard: Not all oil changes are at 3,000 miles

ClarkHowardConsumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

It’s a message that has been steered at drivers for years: Change your engine oil every 3,000 miles. Mechanics used to say you could be damaging your engine if you don’t. But recently said it’s a waste of money if your car is 2002 or newer.

The recommended interval for oil changes nowadays? Roughly 7,500 miles. That’s a bit more than the traditional 3,000. But consult your owner’s manual — you’ll see most will tell you it’s acceptable to go somewhere between 5,000 and 7,500 miles (and some even up to 10,000 miles) between oil changes under normal conditions. Again, this advice only applies to cars 2002 or newer.

You should still stick to the 3,000-mile interval if you drive under severe conditions, or if you have an older vehicle. What exactly are severe conditions? Typically they’re …

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Jessica Shops: designer samples, Sears sale

Get in the circle No longer are designer sample sales only available to an exclusive circle of fashion industry insiders. One of my top go-to shopping sites,, is the secret to top labels at up to 60 percent off for men, women and kids, as well as luxury deals on home, travel and dining. My picks include a Cynthia Steffe black cocktail dress for $89 (regularly $325), a gorgeous Elizabeth Cole Navette Blue Crystal Cluster Ring for $78 (regularly $200) and a Kate Spade Sugar Bowl for $58 (regularly $85) that makes a great wedding gift. Sales are limited and first-come, first-served, so get there early. Just for JessicaShops readers, visit this exclusive link where you can spend $75 and get $25 in credits for your next purchase until midnight Friday.

Save even more on clearance items

Sears: Shop and find amazing clearance sandal deals for men, women and kids, plus get an additional 20 percent off at checkout until July 9. No coupon is needed — the …

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Coupon Mom: Free dental floss, $.99 detergent, $.38 hot dogs

Dental care savings

Walgreens: Find Reach Dental Care items on sale for $2.99, including Reach dental floss (30 yards), Total Care toothbrush (single package) and two-packs of Reach Advanced or By Design toothbrushes. Use the $1 coupon from the April 17 SmartSource circular to pay $1.99 for any of these items, and also get a $2 Register Rewards coupon at the register. Your net cost will be free with a profit of one cent in store credit.

Clean sheets for less

CVS: Get a bargain price on Xtra 2X laundry detergent (28 loads) at CVS. On sale for $1.49, you will pay 99 cents per bottle when you use the $1-off-two coupon from the May 1 SmartSource circular. That’s only 3 cents per load.

Holiday cookout items on sale

Kmart: Get a great deal on Bar-S jumbo franks or bologna (16-ounce packages). Regularly 99 cents each, you can use the store coupon from Kmart’s weekly ad, called a “Super Coupon,” to pay 88 cents per package. Or use the $1-off-two Bar-S manufacturers coupon …

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Independence day (and weekend) deals

Atlanta Braves: In honor of our nation’s heroes, the Atlanta Braves will offer free tickets to all military personnel this weekend (Friday through Monday) at Turner Field. All active duty military, reserve military, and veterans can show military ID at the Turner Field ticket windows to receive a free upper box ticket. Plus, family members can buy additional tickets for half price. The offer is available at the Turner Field ticket windows in advance or on the day of the games.

Brunswick Zone: Walk into any Brunswick bowling center in the Atlanta area and get a free game this weekend. By returning every day, you could bowl four free games. There are no age restrictions on who can receive a free game.

Burger King: The popular Original Chicken Sandwich is available for $1.04 at participating restaurants Saturday through Monday. (It’s usually about $3.69, depending on your location.)

Callaway Gardens: July 4 admission is half-price ($12.50) for annual pass holders and …

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Will you pay extra doctor’s fees?

You may be able to avoid paying those extra baggage fees, but will you be able to escape doctor’s visit add-ons?

According to USA Today, doctors across the country are beginning to tack on extra fees for patients that they say insurance doesn’t cover. Although this group of practitioners is still in the minority, the trend is gaining steam (a la the airline price hikes) among doctors who say their costs are increasing.

More from the story:

The extra payments include no-show fees of $30-$50 for missed appointments, widely varying charges for filling out health forms for school, work or athletic teams, and annual administrative fees of $35-$120 or more to simply be a patient in some practices, medical associations and doctors say.

The rising cost of health care has also been prompting a few desperate patients to take extreme action lately.

Would you pay extra fees if your medical provider began requiring them? What if insurance companies began rolling those fees into your …

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Family: BOGO Medieval Times

Are you still looking for places to take visiting relatives?

Gallop to the indoor (read: air-conditioned) arena at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament with this discount from DealSwarm. The 11th century show features a hardy dinner (vegetarian options available) while you hoot ‘n’ holler for your favorite knights as they compete in the Battle of Champions for the heart of a princess. The louder you are, the more fun it becomes.

This week, you can print a voucher to buy one, get one free for any show this summer. The best part is, you don’t have to pay any money up front — you pay the BOGO price when you show up to the castle. The deal is valid through September, so go ahead and secure one now if you think you might use it later. Plus, you can purchase up to six vouchers for twelve people.

5900 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville. 888-935-6878.

– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter


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Shop smarter in the grocery store

food.0728You might be able to overlook your potato chips, cookies or bagged carrots showing up in smaller packaging at the grocery store, but you can’t ignore your receipts.

In May, a “thrifty” family of four spent an average of $612.70 on food prepared at home, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s an increase of 4.6 percent over last year.

But the thrifty family’s monthly grocery bill pales compared to the $1,209.20 spent last month by families on a “liberal” budget, the USDA says. That’s an increase of 4.4 percent from 2010.

And you’ll continue to pay more for groceries this year — mostly, the USDA says, because of rising energy and agricultural prices and increased demand for food around the world.

Even couponers are feeling the pinch. Michelle Atwood, who runs the shopping website, says big coupons, like 50 cents off one product (which could double to $1) are becoming more scarce.

“Now we’re looking at 45 cents off …

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Would you ‘Scan It?’

A quick viewing of this video on WSB made me a little jealous this morning.

The video depicts a barcode scanner gun being used at Stop & Shop, a northeastern grocery chain, to determine prices on goods in the store for customers. Additionally, the scanner finds coupons available for each product. Customers can actually bag their own groceries as they walk through the store, hand the scanner and store card to the cashier and checkout — without having to unload their groceries from the cart.

This appeals to me because I like to be efficient in the grocery store, but I have some questions:

  • The video says people end up spending 10 percent more, so are the coupons really worth it?
  • If you have manufacturer’s coupons, can you scan those at the register as well?
  • Do people actually spend less time in the store or more?

It was only a matter of time before self-checkout spread to most grocers in the South, so I wonder if this technology will make its way toward us, too.

Would you use a …

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Is the stock market driving you insane?

Certified financial planner Wes Moss provides personal finance advice and accessible investment strategies. His guest post appears here Monday mornings.

Wes-Moss-032011-USE-THIS-VERSIONThe stock market is a giant roller coaster, and we are currently white-knuckling through a series of crazy twists, turns, plunges and loops. As I write this, the Dow Jones industrial average has been down for seven of the last eight weeks, and that one “up” week was just a hair above break-even. That’s why your 401k and IRA are feeling a bit queasy.

This wild ride is powered by what I call the  Dirty Dozen of economic factors. They’ve been driving the market since the beginning of May and have been especially vengeful in June. The worst offenders:

  • Europe’s continued debt crisis –- specifically Greece and fear that its problems will cause financial trouble in other countries.
  • Stubbornly high unemployment rates
  • The economic “soft patch,” or slowdown, in the U.S.
  • Fear of a further stock market …

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Family: Free bowling for kids this summer

You can only watch so many movies at home before the kids (and you) are raring to leave the house.

A fun, air-conditioned option for kids is taking place this summer in bowling alleys across the country — the Kids Bowl Free program. The program allows children (whose ages do not exceed the limit by each participating bowling center) to bowl two free games a day. Participating bowling centers in metro Atlanta include Decatur and Stockbridge. Visit Kids Bowl Free for more details.

More free bowling

  • The 300 Kids Club Card at 300 Atlanta Bowling allows kids under 12 one free game and shoe rental a day Sunday through Friday this season. Card is valid before 5 p.m. each day through Sept. 4. 2175 Savoy Dr., Atlanta. 770-451-8605.
  • AMF Bowling (Conyers, Marietta, Snellville) is offering two free games a day for kids under 16. Just register for the AMF Summer Unplugged program to receive your coupons by email.

Now the real question is: bumpers or no bumpers?

– By Lauren Davidson,

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