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Entries in Bills (4)

Thursday
Jul042013

Same-Sex Couple Pay More of Their Wedding Bills Than Straight Couples

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Same-sex couples are more likely to pay for the majority of a wedding themselves, according to a survey by wedding site TheKnot.com and gay news source The Advocate.

According to the survey, released last week, a large majority -- 86 percent -- paid for the wedding themselves, compared with 40 percent of straight couples. The survey also found same-sex couples are more likely to evenly split wedding planning responsibilities -- more than half (55 percent) split the planning evenly, compared to just 19 percent of their straight counterparts.

Diane Anderson-Minshall, editor-at-large with The Advocate, said the Supreme Court's decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act is a "great opportunity" for wedding businesses.

Twelve states and Washington, D.C., permit same-sex couples to marry.

Anderson-Minshall said she was not surprised by the survey finding that same-sex couples pay for their own weddings more frequently, as opposed to the traditional model of couples' asking parents to chip in for the big day.

"When you have same-sex couples, regardless of the configuration, those people have not had the same support from their families and same relationship recognition that straight couples do have," she said.

Anderson-Minshall, 45, of California, married a woman 22 years ago who is now a man. They have had five wedding ceremonies.

Whether same-sex couples call the big day a commitment ceremony or wedding, often, "families are not seeing it that way," she said.

Anja Winikka, site director of TheKnot.com, said for all couples, the older they are, the more likely they will pay for a wedding themselves and spend more money than younger couples.

Winikka said the wedding industry, for the most part, is dominated by local businesses, many of which target the same-sex market.

"Adding more couples into the pool of engaged couples is positive, obviously, and indicates that the weddings industry can only look to gain," she said.

Hotel chains, honeymoon destinations and other vendors have long marketed to same-sex couples.

The Knot launched its first free digital magazine devoted to same-sex weddings June 24 with two cover versions: one with a female couple and another with a male couple. The magazine's sponsor is spirits brand St. Germain.

Traffic to TheKnot.com doubled last week after the Supreme Court's DOMA decision; and a similar increase in traffic to the website took place after New York allowed same-sex civil unions in the state.

Retailer Target is running banner ads on TheKnot.com geared toward gay and lesbian couples.

Mark Novak, vice president of HotelCoupons.com, said the DOMA ruling had a ripple effect across the country, pointing to a doubling in size of San Francisco's Gay Days Celebration annual event.

"This growth is going to continue, especially in regards to honeymoon travel," Novak said. "LGBT-friendly destinations like Las Vegas, Key West and Napa and Sonoma are going to quickly see a huge increase in the number of honeymoon travelers visiting, while travel to destinations like Orlando and New York will certainly increase, but more slowly."

While business interest in same-sex weddings has been heightened by the Supreme Court's decision, The Advocate's Anderson-Minshall says the real boom in same-sex weddings will likely take place in a year, after couples get engaged and plan their weddings.

"What we have now is nothing like what we are going to have in a year," she said.

But Anderson-Minshall cautions that businesses should refrain from stereotyping same-sex couples and their weddings.

"Stop thinking of them as gay weddings and just think of them as weddings where both people are either male or female. A wedding is a wedding," she said.

"What we want is really what everyone else has had."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan142013

‘Real Money’: Shrink Your Cellphone Bill by $1,000 and End ‘Wireless Waste’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- To stay in touch with his daughters, 11-year-old Reagan and 5-year-old Ava, Phil Barry, a divorced father in Marshfield, Mass., got his eldest an iPhone so they could videochat.

“When they’re with their mom, I try to respect that time, but I still have to talk to them every day,” he said. “I have to see their faces.”

Barry pays for three phones — his iPhone, Reagan’s iPhone and a basic phone for his mother, Susan.  He said his most recent AT&T bill, weighed down by extras like texting and data, had been $311.

“It could go a couple of dollars either way,” he told ABC News recently. “It’s rough. I mean, I think about what most people pay for their cars and that’s what I pay for my cellphone bill. … A lot of it is probably my fault, where I should pay more attention.”

 

J.D. Power and Associates says that U.S. families spend an average of $139 a month on cellphones — $1,668 a year — up from $127 a month in 2009. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that household spending on cellphone services rose by more than 4.5 percent in 2011 and has gone up more than 20 percent since 2006.

ABC News’ “Real Money” team joined forces with Todd Dunphy, a former Verizon employee who co-founded the mobile phone analytics company Validas, which seeks to eliminate what it calls “wireless waste” — unused data, minutes and texts.

Validas, which performs analysis of cellphone usage for large corporations, recently launched Savelovegive.com to provide the same service for free to consumers.

According to Validas, 80 percent of Americans overspend on their monthly cellphone bill by an average of $200 a year.  When Dunphy analyzed Barry’s bill at Savelovegive.com, he immediately found ways to save far more than that.

Although Savelovegive.com automatically prepares an email that users can send to their carriers to switch plans, Barry went into an AT&T store to change his plan in person.  By switching to a MobileShare plan with 6GB of data a month and adding a corporate discount, Barry will save nearly $1,400 over the course of the year.

Below are Dunphy’s tips for making sure your cellphone plan is a perfect fit and possibly shrinking your bill.

1. Let free websites figure it out for you. Just plug in your phone number.

Savelovegive.com takes your bill from your carrier and analyzes it, looking at usage and charges, and then compares it to other available plans. Savelovegive.com currently works for AT&T and Verizon customers, but the site plans to expand to other carriers.  Another analysis site is Billshrink.com.

In Barry’s case, he was buying 8 gigabytes of data monthly but only using 2.5.  By bundling talking and texting into one new plan, he could save nearly $1,200 a year.

2. Look for sneaky charges such as horoscope texts, roadside assistance and 411.

Tiny charges can be added to your bill without your knowledge. On average, it’s more than $5 a month, according to a study by the Citizens Utility Board and Validas.  If you see a charge you’re not familiar with, contact your carrier to have it removed.

3. Get your discount.

Tens of thousands of companies work with cellphone carriers to get their employees discounts.  It’s not just for corporate workers — teachers, government workers and even students can qualify.  But the key is that you have to ask for it, entering your organizational email address on the carrier’s discount web site. Check the discount pages at AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

Barry’s employer was recently purchased by IBM, so he’ll qualify for a discount of up to 25 percent. The discount could save him another $200 a year.

Dunphy told ABC News that Barry’s situation was typical.

“A lot of it is awareness,” he said. “Awareness of what’s out there and then also trying to figure out what you use and what’s available. … It’s like going and getting a suit or a dress, getting it perfectly tailored to you.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct112012

Three Ways to Save Money on Home Heating Bills

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Last winter was the mildest on record for the United States, but temperatures this winter are expected to be close to normal — that is, about 20 to 27 percent colder than last year east of the Rockies, and about one percent colder in the West, where 2011 temperatures were more typical.

So bundle up, and be ready for higher home heating bills. According to the annual Winter Fuels Outlook from the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration, heating bills will rise 20 percent for heating oil customers, 15 percent for natural gas customers, 13 percent for propane customers and 5 percent for electricity customers. Heating oil customers are expected to pay an average of $3.80 per gallon, the highest price on record. That will mean record heating bills, at an average of $2,494 per customer for the season. That’s nearly $200 more than the previous high, set in the winter of 2010-2011.

So what’s the best way to save money on your heating bills this winter? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star program:

1. Use a set-back thermostat that can be programmed according to the home’s occupancy levels. Properly set to reduce the heat when nobody’s home, a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 in annual energy costs.

2. Seal air leaks in the home and add insulation. You can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs — or up to 10 percent on your total annual energy bill — by sealing air leaks and insulating your home. “A typical household spends approximately $1,000 a year on heating and cooling, so proper sealing and insulation can save homeowners as much as $200 per year,” said Chandler von Schrader, Residential Program Manager at Energy Star.  "Sealing air leaks stops drafts, and adding insulation blocks heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.”

3. Get a home energy audit. The cost of a home energy audit depends on the type of audit — from “clipboard audits,” which are quick but less thorough, to more fully comprehensive audits with diagnostic tools (blower door, infrared scanning and screening of the heating/cooling and distribution system). Clipboard audits take about an hour and often cost less than $100, or are even free in some cases. “Comprehensive audits can cost up to $500 or more, can take many hours to complete, but they produce a detailed report on making whole-house comfort and efficiency improvements,” von Schrader said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr132012

Artist Cuts Up Cash for Tax Deduction

Chad Person(LOS ANGELES) -- When it comes to paying federal taxes, artist Chad Person takes penny pinching to a whole new level.

The California-based designer is cutting up dollar bills -- actual, paper dollars -- to create collages of military weaponry, and then deducting those dollars from his taxable income. As materials for his business, the sliced and diced dollars are exempt from some taxes, thereby lowering Person’s overall tax rate.

“Rather than buying $200 of paint today, I withdrew $200 and chopped it up and turned it into paint essentially,” Person said, describing his collages. “It greatly reduces my liability.”

While Person refused to disclose how much the crafty deduction is saving him, he said it was a “fair amount.”

Though having an extra chunk of change every year is a nice byproduct, Person said his more important goal is “taking money literally right off the table from the military industrial complex.”

The less money he pays in taxes, Person said, the less funding the government has for bombs and tanks.

“If I slice up a hundred dollars to make an image, or a thousand, or just five, I am taking it out of the IRS coffers,” Person wrote on his web site, which showcases his dollar bill art. Although he acknowledges “it might have been just enough to halt the purchase of one box of ammunition.”

So far Person has created about 60 to 70 “currency on canvas” collages as part of his “TaxCut” collection, which he began about four years ago as a form of anti-war protest. From tanks and fighter jets to missiles and assault ships, each mosaic intricately depicts a piece of military machinery using nothing but cash and archival glue on canvas.

One such image could take anywhere from a few dollars to $15,000, Person said. For some pieces he uses a mere 1/200th of the dollar bill because some of the textures he wants are only found on a tiny section of the dollar.

Cutting up cash, as Person does for his collages, is technically against the law. According to the Secret Service, “defacing” dollar bills is punishable by a small fine and up to six months in prison, but offenders are rarely prosecuted.

“I can’t see that anyone should be concerned,” Person said about his apparent unlawfulness. “I’m an artist making a commentary that should certainly be protected under free speech. I can’t imagine people thinking it would be worth the expense of putting me behind bars for six months.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio