Archive for the ‘Weekly focus’ Category

Megabus can save you mega bucks

The lure of traveling for just $1 was too strong to ignore.

Megabus, the daily express bus service that expanded to include a hub in Atlanta last fall, has since added routes to Athens and New Orleans. It also offers direct travel to Knoxville, Gainesville, Fla., and other Southern cities sometimes excluded from express services.

The $1 travel fare isn’t a unique marketing technique, but Megabus is capitalizing on the “safe, convenient, low-cost” combination that appeals to riders sick of the gas price rollercoaster. Some trips via bus can easily cost you less than it would to drive yourself.

The trick is keeping costs to a minimum, which includes using double-decker buses, which haul more passengers but burn roughly the same amount of fuel as single-deckers, says Bryony Chamberlain, VP of operations for Megabus.

“We try and make sure we’re a very efficient operation — very few people in the senior planning management,” Chamberlin says. “We have the …

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Travel, gift cards go on sale this month

Graduations, Memorial Day and warm weather all drive the best discounts in May.

Gift cards: These common gifts for high school or college graduates sometimes go on sale this time of year — say, $40 for a $50 card. “The retailers will be pushing the gift cards because they know it’s an easy gift,” consumer site FatWallet spokesman Brent Shelton said.

Travel: Higher prices will kick in starting in June, so book an impromptu getaway now to score the best deals until autumn, Shelton says. “There’s a pretty wide variety of deals. You’ve got to do a little bit of shopping to find them,” he said. Peruse package deals that include airfare, hotel accommodations and a rental car.

Gym fees: When the weather warms up, exercise facilities sometimes offer incentives to persuade you to work out inside. “You’re in a better position to haggle for some sort of cut,” said Lindsay Sakraida, features director at DealNews. “A lot of them will run outright promotions. Like …

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Hard to keep up with tech advances

For you “24″ fans, above is “24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot” from

Traci Rylands remembers the first time she saw “Mystery Science Theater 3000” in the 1990s — and was hooked.

“I had to depend on when it came on TV,” she said. “When I saw you could buy it on tapes, I thought, ‘Whoo-hoo!’”

The Tucker resident built up a collection of MST3K store-bought VHS tapes, plus additional episodes recorded straight from TV. Now Rylands, 44, is considering rebuying all the episodes on DVD — or possibly digitally — along with her movies that still survive in the older format.

“Some things you cannot get on DVD, that they didn’t bother to make the DVD of,” she said. “So I do hold on to those. I still have the tape from my sister’s wedding and the things that you made, that your parents filmed, when you were young. And I still haven’t converted those because it can be expensive.”

Music formats have similarly evolved, from vinyl records and …

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Find the right card for travel rewards

Cali Lewis hasn’t paid for a vacation in eight years.

Last year Lewis and her husband traveled to Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico and Colorado, all on rewards points they earned from their credit card. The couple has also ventured overseas to Scotland and Italy using credit card rewards.

“We stayed in a $1,200 room in Rome [for free] — that was a pretty good deal,” says Lewis, who lives at Lake Lanier. “We’ve had some really magical experiences. And when it’s free, it’s even better.”

Credit card rewards and cash-back programs seem to be springing up everywhere. But sometimes they come with debilitating restrictions. Blackout travel dates (like holidays or even weekends) can work against you, such as when you want to visit family for Christmas. And some points systems are so stingy you’d have to travel practically every weekend to reap significant benefits.

Enter Lewis, who says the system can work for you — if you know how the system works.

In addition to …

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Savings spring up on tablets, cruises

Shop for cruise vacations, jewelry for Mom and tablets this month:

Cruises: Although April is traditionally a great month to buy a cruise package, now it’s especially savvy. “Especially this year,” says Lindsay Sakraida, features director at “We’re postulating that because of a lot of the bad publicity they’ve been getting with the public disasters.

“In particular, I think Royal Caribbean and Carnival were two cruise lines that saw the lowest prices last month, and we’re expecting that to continue into April.” Offers Sakraida has seen this year are already 11 percent cheaper than deals from 2011.

Home and garden: This category “is kind of exploding right now,” says Dan Butler with the National Retail Federation. “You’ll see patio furniture on sale for 20 to 30 percent off. The weather’s turning and people are getting out and working in their yards, so it’s a good time to go shopping for those things.” Insecticide, grass seed and …

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Deals on laptops, TVs likely in March

March brings a plethora of older electronics dropping in price, thanks to new-model previews at last month’s annual International Consumer Electronics Show. With spring approaching, you’ll also see a few seasonal deals in March:

Automotive: Look for offers on tires, maintenance parts and wax-and-wash supplies. Although Atlanta vehicles don’t regularly suffer the damage from the salt-sand mix northern cities need for traction in the snow, Southerners could still benefit from national deals aimed at consumers planning to spruce up their cars after gritty winters. Consumer site spokesman Brent Shelton says there’s usually a spike in discounts for tire deals (like buy three, get one free), alignments and tune-ups in March.

TVs: It’s no Black Friday, but March offers some nice deals on TVs. “The new ones will be coming out over the next several months, so you might be able to get deals on last year’s models as the newer ones come out,” says Jim Barry, …

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Where to find spring break deals

Spring break is just around the corner, and it’s not only for college kids anymore.

Just because your college days are a dwindling landscape in the rear-view mirror doesn’t mean you’re willing to pay tuition-sized bills on vacations. The best way to save is to do some research, then choose your destination based on the specials. Are flights to Orlando on sale? How much are hotels in Nashville? Then work backward to build your trip.

Here are a few resources to aid your search:

Airline tickets: It can be difficult to land a deal, especially when prices fluctuate based on fuel and other factors. User-friendly aggregator (click the travel tab) will not only give you a price alert when your trip goes on sale, but also has a price predictor to help you guess if the price is likely to go up or down based on historical data.

When booking your flight, use Plug in your flight number and the guide will give you a seat map of the plane, allowing you to avoid …

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Hey, lovers, spend more time, and less money, today

So what if you’re trying to keep it casual this Valentine’s Day? I won’t judge.

Some of you celebrated in full over the weekend instead of splurging tonight. Maybe the hyped-up commercialism of the day turns you off from pricey restaurant “specials.” Or perhaps your idea of a perfect date is snuggling up together at home.

Whatever your situation, here are a few 11th-hour ideas you can enjoy together — because it’s the memories you create, not the cost, that make Valentine’s Day special.

Massage: There’s no shortage of spa bargains out there, and what better way to wind down after a work day? Or save the coupon for the weekend when you both have more time. Group-buying website emails your coupon almost immediately (if you’re not using mobile) and offers deals like a 90-minute massage from mobile company Metta Station Massage or a one-hour Swedish massage and foot scrub from Helping Hands Massage Studio in Marietta, each for only $32 per …

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Best things to buy in February

With our mild winter and two holidays in February, it’s an excellent month to buy a variety of goods and services.

Outerwear: Lindsay Sakraida, features director at, says many retailers are stuck with an overstock of heavy coats because this winter has been so warm. “It hasn’t really inspired people to go out and buy,” Sakraida says. “February is always a pretty good month to be getting a great deal on a coat, but especially this year. It sounds like retailers are really trying to push them out the door.” She suggests stacking a coupon on top of a Presidents Day sale.

iPad 2: When the iPad 2 was unveiled, the DealNews team saw deep discounts on refurbished original iPads. Now, “There’s a lot of rumors that iPad 3 will be released at the end of February, which means it will probably be a great time to start looking for deals on the iPad 2,” Sakraida says. If the buzz turns out to be real, sales might spill into March as well.

Ski trips: “We’ve …

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Protect your smartphone and tablet from identity theft

Every week more people are buying smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

And every week thieves are lurking to steal those gadgets — along with your banking and other personal information.

According to Internet marketing researcher comScore, more than 32 million Americans used a mobile device to manage bank accounts during the second quarter of 2011 — about 14 percent of all mobile users in the United States. That’s up 21 percent from the last quarter of 2010, and experts predict continued growth as companies improve their mobile apps.

Smyrna resident Melissa Sharpe recounts what happened when her fiancé’s work iPad was stolen this past holiday season — though she admits they share the blame after leaving it on a plane they had taken from Atlanta to Dallas last month.

The couple did about everything they could to recover the tablet, as it contained their personal banking information as well as potentially sensitive client healthcare documents. Its Find My iPad …

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