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Ellen Phillips

Stories by Ellen

Q: I plan to start my holiday shopping the week before Thanksgiving to take advantage of early holiday sales. What advice can you offer to help me stick to my budget? — Geraldine Gifter

Q: We’re planning a long drive during the holidays to show off our new baby to the family. He’ll obviously be strapped into a car seat, but what other safety tips we should know about before starting out? — Meticulous Mommy

Thanksgiving is the most heavily traveled holiday of the year.

The advent of November means Thanksgiving, the most heavily traveled holiday of the year, is fast approaching.

A number of readers have asked for a repeat of previous Halloween columns about child safety.

AARP advises anyone who might be considering an open enrollment insurance move to beware of identity thieves.

While the stock market seems pretty stable right now, layoffs at work still occur and unemployment remains too high.

Q: It seems like I receive car recall notices several times a year. How necessary is it to pay attention to these? — Rachel Recall

Tablets are all the rage. From pre-K babes through great-great grannies, it seems like everyone totes one around. iPad was the be-all-to-end-all until others entered the scene.

Many of my friends are dispensing with their expensive cable bills and going to other newer technology.

Q. I’ve wondered over the years why you don’t write a column about pets. I’d like to have some tips to save money with my dog. — Dennis Disappointed

I’ve had a column topic on my mind for awhile.

Q: I know Angie’s List provides recommendations for local contractors, cleaning services, etc., but I’m not overly fond of paying a subscription fee. Do you have any ideas to find reliable businesses for free? — Rachel Research

With my 62-year-old “baby” sister having undergone major surgery in June and a stint in rehab thereafter (the latter miserable experience definitely a column for another occasion), my days and nights have been filled with medical research and advice to help all of us cope.

Now that readers know tips to help make a good vacation even better, don’t forget, statistically, that if anything can go wrong at your home, it’ll happen while you’re off having a great trip.

I wrote about cruising a couple of years ago.Because this type of vacation is at such an all-time high these days, a number of readers have asked me to revisit the topic.

Do you have any tips to conserve money safely while on a vacation? — Tom Traveler

As last week’s column concerned a question from a vacationing reader, I decided the next few summer columns should also feature travel news that readers can apply this season or stick aside to use for future vacations. This week concerns one of my least favorite before-trip chores: packing. Most of the following suggestions are commonplace, although sometimes we need a nudge to remember to follow them.

Happy Belated 4th of July.

In the past few months, I’ve lost one phone and my husband’s was stolen. Since we both maintain confidential information on our phones, what precautions can we take to protect ourselves?

Continuing with last week’s info concerning how to eliminate nuisance phone calls/telemarketers that number right at 200,000 complaints monthly, my research shows that does help some, but don’t stop there. While we also discussed, do add the following suggestions to your help list.

It used to be that dinner time was THE time telemarketers dialed your number to sell products, request votes, solicit money, announce you’ve “won” contests, and all else on the “Leave Me the Heck Alone” list (as opposed to the “Do Not Call).

I need some information to make purchasing a new car easier. Please help.

As many of you may recall, ShopSmart, an arm of Consumer Reports, is one of my primary go-to research resources, and the current issue is no exception.

Q: How can I be sure that when I travel, Wi-Fi connections are secure?

Q. Money is especially tight this year. Growing children, plus my husband and I, need many new clothes. Obviously I shop sales, but what other advice can you share to help me get the best price to save the most money? — Betsy Bewildered

Finding good in-home care for senior family members is inordinately expensive.

Dear Ms. Cautious: First, I’m delighted you’ve put aside the credit report information in the event you should need it for possible ID theft or simply to check and make certain all your personal and financial information is correct.

Well, your consumer expert may not be so expert after all. In the past, I've written of a number of methods whereby readers can avoid cyber attacks and, for the most part, I've followed my own advice until the advent of my new computer.

If your family is like mine, you’re overwhelmed with records: paper, digital, or a combo.

Q: I’m shopping around for a new car but am really confused by all the ads, sales, “best deals,” and the like. Can you give me a few easy tips that will save me money in the long run? — Annie Auto

According to The Week magazine, thus far in 2014, 10 percent of cable customers vow to rid themselves of this service by canceling their subscriptions.

I think I’ve made a bad mistake. After maxing out my credit cards and receiving many dunning notices, I sought 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

A couple of weeks ago, I received a notice from Target reminding me of my free one-year Experian offer that allows that credit reporting company to keep an eye on and report if anything funny is going on with my purchases. (The notice is, of course, thanks to Target’s recent data breaching horrors.)

I just accompanied my friend to the Emergency Room, and it was a terrible experience.

ShopSmart, one of my all-time favorite resources, recently printed an article about road rage.

Unfortunately, it’s that time of the year when many of us turn into one, big mass of sniveling idiots, frantically culling through hundreds, if not thousands, of receipts in preparation for that dreaded date — April 15th.

I’ve just received an almost $1,000 bill from a health provider that, between Medicare and my secondary insurance plan, should have been covered. I can’t seem to get anyone explain why my claim was denied. Can you help? — Paul Patient

As readers recall from last week’s column, it’s vital we get our ducks in a row when hiring a cleaning crew who will have access to our home and belongings. Trust is key here, which makes it even more important to research before and during the interview process.

Q: My New Year’s gift to myself is to hire a maid service. However, I’m really not sure how to find the right one for what I can afford and the kinds of questions to ask when interviewing. Any suggestions?

Even in the South, winter driving can be treacherous. One minute you’re cruising along the highway and the next an unplanned event forces you off the road.

Many of us make basic New Year’s Resolutions, only to discover on down the road, for example, that extra five holiday pounds have doubled to ten or clearing out dresser drawer clutter only added more debris to the linen closet.

I’ve been collecting hints all year for last-minute gifts during the holiday season.

Continuing on with charitable organizations, this week’s column suggests charities worth putting your money where your mouth is, compliments of Real Simple magazine.

While the holiday shopping season generally means a fun time for celebrants, we do NOT want it to be enjoyable for crooks strolling store parking lots waiting to pounce upon unsuspecting customers.

I know you’ve occasionally written about discounts for seniors. Since I’ve just started my holiday shopping and funds are a bit scarce this year, can you update these discounts for me?

I want to share this with your readers. I recently received a $3,000 disbursement from an insurance policy that I knew nothing about and certainly didn’t know I was the beneficiary. You can bet I’ve checked to see if other monies were waiting for me to find them, too.

Q: I’m having a terrible time getting my insurance company to approve an in-patient procedure. Any ideas to help them along? — Paul Patient

I think the local auto mechanic ripped me off recently. Before my car needs another tune up (or a second opinion), what steps should I take to avoid problems like what I think I've experienced? — Adam Auto

Just as a reminder, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S. with over 12 million victims annually.

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