When I discover great resources -- especially those that save consumers money -- I love to pass that information along. BillShrink (www.billshrink.com) is one of those gold mines. A free decision-oriented site designed to put money back into our pockets, BillShrink allows subscribers to view unbiased recommendations customized to their particular needs, and its database is continually updated to meet your demands.
I like the way the company subtitles itself as a personal finance matchmaker. Its credentials are impeccable; the site has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Kiplinger's and Consumer Reports.
The four areas patrolled by BillShrink are ones that pop us time and again for consumers: credit cards; cell phones, especially smart phones; gas stations; and savings accounts and CDs, its newest development.
After speaking in depth with company President Samir Kothari, I decided to expand on their areas of expertise over four columns. In the meantime, I'll give you just a taste of each to whet your appetite.
Gasoline is a top household expense and, even though prices are lower now than last year, they still vary pretty widely among gas stations and locales. BillShrink can track all these changes plus repeatedly pick the best stations with the lowest prices in your area and at any time. Plus, it gets better -- your personal program computes your cost for visiting each station based on the retail fuel price, your car and your specific commute path.
So far as cell phone use is concerned, BillShrink lets you discover the best cell carrier and plan to meet your personal usage requirements. This isn't just a review of companies and the hundreds of plans ad nauseum, either.
BillShrink affords you the optimum selection, based specifically upon whom you call, when you call, how much you call, Internet capabilities and so forth. In other words, the application interactively describes your cell profile and, in return, you receive comprehensive, real-time analysis and feedback to decide which plan(s) fits you the best.
With credit card recommendations, the company again matches up with cards which are ranked and recommended according to how their characteristics follow one's personal spending habits profile. Each card has a comprehensive details page that includes detailed information on rates, fees, rewards parameters, features/benefits and user reviews.
Best, when you indicate the card(s) you primarily use, BillShrink's analysis compares how its recommended cards compare against your existing card. Moreover, even though the new credit card consumer protection law (the Card Act) does help in some areas, BillShrink continually keeps the consumer updated on any changes that might occur.
Too, it automatically tracks how your set of recommended cards vary each month and will e-mail you any recommendations.
On Sept. 29 BillShrink debuted its most recent tool -- a savings account comparison. Regardless of how you save (unless under the mattress), who wants to spend hours combing the Web to find the best banks and/or rates? After you input a few answers (such as how much you try to save per month), BillShrink searches 300+ CDs, savings, and money market accounts for the best rates for your own situation.
Then it'll help you with other factors, such as the banks and/or ATMs the closest distance to you, the ones that charge little to no fees, available credit unions, and the like -- all of which is most beneficial to you. As always, BillShrink's database runs continually so you can check your own updates anytime.
Hopefully, within the next few days, readers will try out BillShrink and see for themselves just why the company is on target to uncover $1billion in savings for consumers by the end of this year!
OOPS ON WOOD STOVES
Several readers rapped my knuckles for neglecting to mention wood stoves and inserts in last week's column. Mea culpa, dear ones; I do hope the following information reinstates me in your affections.
* Wood stoves: These babies are fast starting, long burning and very efficient, plus with most manufacturers selling three sizes, homeowners can find a fit for just about any room in the house. Some actually offer a raised griddle for stovetop cooking.
A reader tells me his stove supplements the home's electric heat pump. Even better, though, is when an emergency arises and you have no electricity, the wood stove can provide both heat and a cooking surface.
* Inserts: If your home has a nonworking or inefficient fireplace, perhaps an insert is the answer. Not only does this addition provide for a clean-burning and high efficiency heating appliance, but also it maintains the charm and independence of burning wood.
Like looking into a 3-D picture window, an insert provides security, light and warmth.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org