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Ellen Phillips

Stories by Ellen

My son has just set up housekeeping and needs to learn a quick lesson in how to check for billing errors. In the past, he's overpaid some bills so I think this lesson is important. — Donald Dad

Today's column is the third installment of the yearly storage ideas, courtesy of ShopSmart, arm of Consumer Reports.

My husband and I are in the market for a new mattress but are overwhelmed by all the different types, brands, and promises. Any suggestions? — Sally Shopper

The past two columns have informed and emphasized a few of the major problems with some aspects of the health care system, thanks to Steven Brill in Time magazine.

Insurers with the most customers have the greatest leverage when it comes to negotiating charges; normally, they'll try to obtain prices 30 percent to 50 percent above the Medicare rates rather than discounts off the chargemaster rates. All too often, tho

Mark Kennedy's April 14 column that featured hospitals' vast overcharging of their patients via the "chargemaster" had me haul out my own notes for writing about what seems to be almost a conspiracy to defraud too many of America's sick citizens.

OK, OK, so I'm hung up on identity theft.

I've just heard a horror story from a colleague about his deceased brother's identity being stolen.

Even though our spring has been erratic, it's still time to think about seasonal storage and, as promised, it's also time to continue hints as to the best and less expensive ways to store different winter items.

As readers know, one of my favorite resources is ShopSmart, the brainchild of Consumer Reports. Its advice has saved money and time, and this week's tips are no exception.

Dear Mr. Boat: In order to get the best service possible, you need to enlist the expertise of a travel agent who specializes in cruise travel.

Having written about budgeting a number of times and personally finding it not at all fun, I've just discovered four online tools that supposedly make it at least bearable.

My wife and I are planning an extended vacation that includes hotel stays for about three weeks.

I'd like to sell my car outright before taking it to a dealer. Do you have any suggestions for me to get the best price? — Al Auto

How do I insulate better in this winter weather? I can't afford to spend much money on outside help. — Harry Homeowner

I'd like to sell my car outright before taking it to a dealer. Do you have any suggestions for me to get the best price? — Al Auto

I received a Kindle for Christmas and can't figure out the best ways to select books other than through Amazon or perhaps borrowing from the public library. I love to read, so I am desperate for your suggestions. — Rachel Reader

I recently ran across some great storage ideas for each of the four seasons and thought I'd share, beginning with (naturally) winter, thanks to ShopSmart, a publication of Consumer Reports.

I find myself head over heels in debt. What are some ways — easy ones, please — to get rid of the debt? — Owen Owe

Happy New Year. Folks often ask the best time to buy certain items, and January is the place to start.

A good New Year's resolution is to slash your monthly bills. In case you've tried to do so without success, I've included some great tips, compliments of ShopSmart magazine and the publisher's penny-pinching experts that center around energy and water-savings changes.

“Oh, me, oh my It’s time to cry No gift for Sam Or one for Pam! What should I do To get these two?

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

Q. I'm planning to contribute to charities this season in lieu of giving "regular" gifts.

Q. I'm planning to do some online shopping for holiday gifts. What precautions should I take? — Sarah Safety

Q With the holidays looming, I wonder where I can go online to complain about problems I know I'll incur during the next few weeks.

We're planning a plane trip over the holidays and know that flying can generate high stress.

My family is planning a long drive for Thanksgiving. What suggestions do you have for keeping the trip as inexpensive as possible? — Tim Traveler

One of my passions is spreading the word about scams against our elderly.

And finally to conclude this Hall of Shame recall and bad boys list, I can't end without listing these "boys" who dropped the ball about their defective products.

Continuing with our unsafe products column, I thought readers would be interested in the top recalled products of 2012 (thus far), according to Consumer Reports' ShopSmart magazine.

I subscribe to a number of consumer newsletters and am always interested in product recalls.

I find myself head over heels in debt and really don't know where to begin to dig my way out.

My family accuses me of paranoia, but I'd always rather be safe than sorry.

Continuing with last week’s columns regarding scams, be on the alert for:

A number of folks recently have contacted me about being embroiled in scams.

What's your advice for interviewing auto mechanics?

One of my friends is a successful bargain hunter.

Continuing to piggyback on how to save money while traveling this summer, here's another offering on how to not let your summer vacation break the bank.

Piggybacking on last Saturday's vacation column, Good Housekeeping offers some great suggestions to save money while traveling.

I vaguely recall a column about how to protect our identity while on vacation. Can you refresh my memory? — Ted Travel Dear Mr. Travel: I believe this was a column from summer 2010; however, let me revisit the topic with relevant updates, compliments of www.aarp.org.

I decided to write another doctor column this week because on the heels of last week's column, I thought it a sound idea to cover what to do if you don't like this physician and how to break up with him or her. Maybe he's not providing you with the best c

Q. I've recently moved to town and, for the first time since I was a youngster, need a new doctor. What should I take when I go for the first office visit? -- Penny Patient

Q. I'm taking a cruise next month and want to buy travel insurance but am not really sure of the difference between the insurance and travel waivers. Can you help? — Barry Boat

We’re getting ready to renovate our kitchen and a couple of other parts of our home and want to save as much money as possible. We’ll need all new appliances and want to know what we can do to ensure they’ll last longer than an average lifetime. — Sally Savings

Q. My business banking account doesn't hold but a couple hundred dollars a month. I've been getting a senior no-service charge rate, but now the bank has announced a monthly $5 fee if I don't have a great deal more than that in my account. Do I have any recourse?

Q. We've finally decided to buy a home but need to know what to look for in a home inspector. We've heard horror stories from friends who've picked the wrong inspector, so what should we look out for?

Trying to figure out where to complain (other than regulatory agencies about which I write and talk) can be tough. However, online sites can help you not only to vent, but also to help provide information about companies.

Some folks who're finishing up their tax returns have recently asked about tax deductions for giving to charity. As most of you know, non-cash items are legitimate deductions; however, certain rules must be followed for Uncle Sam to accept your offerings.

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