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Ellen Phillips

Stories by Ellen

As we continue with last week's estate planning errors, per Bottom Line Personal, be careful to check with your attorney to see whether a trust makes sense for you.

I've been hearing all kinds of rumors about estate planning errors. Even though my wife and I have a trust, I'm a bit concerned about these rumors. What's the straight story about the federal estate tax that expired in 2009?

As readers may recall, I think writer Mary Hunt is the crème de la crème of financial advisers. One of her recent newsletters dealt with clever ways in which to recycle, and I’ve stolen a few ideas to pass on, (paraphrased, of course).

’T is the Saturday of Christmas

More gift ideas abound, some of which arrived from readers. While all are interesting, I never would have thought of some of them when shopping at non-traditional "gift" stores.

Q: With funds so short and lots of family coming for the holidays, do you have any suggestions to conserve money instead of spending too much on gifts? -- Sam and Sara Saver

As holiday gift-giving time approaches, a few money-saving tips may be just the thing to offer. Just be sure to read any and all fine print before all purchases to ensure you're getting exactly what you want. (Also use the gift card tips after the holiday

I'd like to send long-distance flowers to my parents for their anniversary but I got burned the last time I sent my wife Valentine's Day flowers. Any advice on what to watch for?

Q: Now that the new cars are coming out, what's some purchase advice you can give me other than the same old buy at the end of the month, etc.? -- Hettie Haggle A: Dear Ms. Haggle: That "same old" is still a great strategy to save money when buying a new vehicle.

Let me suggest some common sense ideas that many of us already execute and a few others some folks might not necessarily think about as regards their credit scores. I'll begin with the ones we generally already carry out.

One of my dearest friends, who has obviously forgotten all advice over the years, asked me recently about buying her credit report. (She must not have read my column's advice, either.)

I vaguely remember a column where you discussed Halloween safety practices. My child is old enough to go to a party this year, and I want to be sure he's safe, so will you remind us again?

My husband thinks I’m obsessed about our wallets being stolen, but I learned my lesson after a thief used my credit card a few months ago. What advice can I give my nay-sayer spouse so he thinks I’m practical?

I was at my bank’s ATM one night last week and became quite uncomfortable when a suspicious-looking couple hung around while I was in the vestibule. They finally left before I exited, so I really don’t know if they were innocent or not. Did I do the right thing?

My friends at the FBI’s white-collar fraud division have done it again.

Q: I’ve had it with my hairdresser. Not only has she cut my hair crooked the last two times, but she just colored it way too blonde. I want my money back and also want to change stylists within the same shop, so what can I do? — Jackie Jagged

As my most loyal readers know, I love to come up on unique companies that exist pretty much with consumer service exclusively in mind, and this week’s column is no exception.

"All I hear about health care reform confuses me. Surely you can help make some of the new information more concise."

If you couldn’t decide upon a new computer purchase featured in last week’s column, perhaps you need some more information. Whether desktop or laptop, money to burn, or you’re Fannie or Frank Frugal, we all need to know how best to choose a computer, before even thinking about a brand.

Now that school’s officially begun, it may be time to purchase a computer, either for home use or for your student’s purpose. (Hopefully, you took advantage of last month’s tax holiday for this or any other allowable school acquisition.)

More than a half century ago while visiting near Fort Myers, Fla., author Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient.”

Q: We’ve just purchased an older home that’s truthfully pretty ugly. We don’t have a lot of cash to upgrade or beautify, but we know some improvements must be made. Any ideas to help out our budget? — Linda and Louie Lackluster

I thoroughly enjoy skimming through women’s magazines in my leisure time and between the fashions and food sometimes discover some meaningful consumer information.

The July-August issue of AARP’s Bulletin includes a scary alert and some savvy advice for all consumers, not just senior citizens.

After a fender-bender that wasn’t even my fault, my insurance company raised my rates. Is there anything I can do? — Furious Freddy

Carrying over from last week’s question about manufactured (mobile) homes and warranty concerns, I decided to copy the idea of some big hit movies and make this column a “prequel.” So with regard to actually buying this type of home warranty initially, clip out today’s column and keep it handy when you begin to shop.

With so many stories about “ObamaCare” rolling around, I found some great news with regards to extra help for certain Medicare participants.

OK, you've written the be-all-to-end-all resume, but stop before sending it to prospective employers. No matter how great a job we think we did, I'll just bet an error or two is hiding just waiting to surface when Mr. Boss Man's eagle eye skims the form.

Q I was laid off from work a few weeks ago and just got around to polishing up my resume. I worked for the same company for almost 20 years so I'm not sure if the resume says enough to land me another position.

Q We've moved into an older house that seems to have drafty windows. I've enjoyed your advice about hiring general contractors, but I expect window contractors' qualifications might be different. What do you advise? -- Carl Chilly

Q Since moving to town and opening an account with a bank, I've become convinced some of its practices aren't to be trusted. I plan to change banks this week but should I let authorities know my suspicions? -- Lawrence Law-Abiding

Q: I'm getting ready to buy airfare and trip insurance for my husband's and my summer trip to New England. I'm not so sure how to avoid rip-offs for the insurance and would appreciate any advice. -- Teri Traveler

Yep, the weather's getting ready for swimming pool time, and our warm southern region is ideal for a backyard setting. Last week's query by the gentleman who asked about pool contractors gave me an opportunity to check if these specific providers' qualifications differ from the norm and how to discover the best names.

Q: My wife and I are in the market for an in-ground swimming pool. With such a major expenditure, we want to hire the best person possible. Any ideas? -- Orville Overheated

Q: I didn't send in my census form on time and now hear all sorts of stories about census takers coming to my home. What's the real story on what to expect? -- Warren Worried

Does any reader facing home foreclosure and last week’s possibility of a loan modification see some light at the end of the financial tunnel? If so, perhaps you’ve started your necessary paperwork and you’re ready for some answers about this venture, thanks to www.mortgageloan.com.

Q I’m glad the housing market looks like it’s on the upswing, but it doesn’t help me. I’m desperately trying to avoid foreclosure on my home and I thank you for any advice you can give. — Harold Homeowner

This week is National Consumer Protection Week and, while I'm absolutely certain readers memorize every smidgen of consumer advice I advocate, Herb Weisbaum from www.msnbc.com has written The 10 Consumer Commandments. This clever list succinctly incorpora

Happy Birthday to me! My mother always spring cleaned in early April and declared the house "spruce up" to be an out of the ordinary birthday gift for my benefit. (Good thing she and Daddy also gave me gift-wrapped presents, too!)

Q: My daughter's acceptance into her college of choice is wonderful, but I'm concerned about paying the hefty tuition. We've pretty much exhausted federal loan options because of my husband's and my income, and financial lenders aren't as numerous these days. She's held a job for the past three years and is an "A" student so might she be better off trying to get a loan under her own name? -- Mindy Mom

Q I'm having a problem canceling a health club membership. When I joined several months ago, the salesman assured me if I became unhappy with it, I could cancel without penalty, but that's not happening. Any suggestions? -- Eleanor Exercise

Q I think I've made a bad mistake. After maxing out my credit cards and receiving many dunning notices, I decided to seek help from a credit repair company. After several months, the company hasn't done anything to help, and I'm still in bad financial trouble. What can I do now? -- Harry Hoodwinked

Picking up from last week's column concerning agencies that regulate utilities/service organizations, grab some scissors to cut out and save the following state agencies, though I hope you never need these contacts. (Don't forget to write the head honcho

Q: I'm so frustrated and aggravated with my cable company's billing practices. For the past three months, they've promised to correct their errors; not only has the company broken these promises, but also usually have made additional mistakes. Surely, con

OK, you've culled and collected your unneeded junk (er, I mean treasures), photographed them from all angles and written clear scrupulous descriptions.

Many of us already are readying our returns and praying Uncle Sam doesn't march us to the bank to empty our account to pay more taxes. If you're like me, just to be on the safe side, I'm gathering merchandise from around my home to make a few bucks.

Q: I swiped my debit card to pay for a recent tank of gas and almost immediately learned over $200 was stolen from my bank account. The police told me crooks had "skimmed" my card that gave them access to my account.

Q: I was scammed a couple of months ago by a telemarketer who tricked me into paying monthly fees without my knowledge. Thankfully, I knew enough to investigate on my own and then turn the scam over to the state attorney’s office. Please tell others how to be smarter on the phone before it’s too late. — Clever Calvin

Q: I loved your article about health care insurance claims, but my insurance matter is different. I’m debating among three homeowner policies for my soon-to-be purchased home and can’t decide which is best.

Continuing last week's column concerning insurance companies' denial of claims, compliments of Agitated Agatha:

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