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Thursday
Apr072011

Stars of Reality Series Save $40,000 on Grocery Bill

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In the two-episode premiere of TLC's Extreme Couponing, families reveal their money-saving tactics and coupon prowess by taking coupon-clipping to the maximum.

"Why pay for something tomorrow when it's free today?" Nathan Engels, who operates the website WeUseCoupons.com, said in an interview with ABC News.

The coupon clippers on the new episodes of the TLC series aren't lifelong coupon savers, but at the cash register, they often cut more than 90 percent from their grocery bills.

The strategy of free frequently forces extreme couponers to stockpile enough food and supplies to feed an army for years -- but it works. Tiffany Ivanovsky, a preschool director who appears on the first episode, said she has accumulated two years' worth of supplies for her family of nine, and it has saved her around $40,000.

Engels said his obsession with coupons began more than three years ago while merging finances with his then-new wife.

"We combined our finances and realized we were deeply in debt, so we started cutting up our credit cards," said Engels. While trimming their debt, the couple began looking at other ways to save, which included the grocery store, their second largest household expense after the monthly mortgage payment.

The basic goal of stockpiling is to remove items from your grocery list and shrink your weekly shopping list. Then, meals and other needs are planned around the stockpiled items. Since welcoming a daughter 14 months ago, Engels hasn't made a single stop at the store to buy a pack of diapers, thanks to his stockpile.

"My 11th commandment is, 'Thou shall not pay retail.' It's not necessary with the use of coupons," said J'amie Kirlew, who keeps coupons valued at $40,000 bound and sorted in her home.

Kirlew took to extreme couponing after her husband lost his job, leaving her to fret about their lifestyle and their three children. Living in an affluent suburb of Washington, D.C., she seeks to avoid the stereotype of an obsessed coupon user by getting dressed up for outings to the grocery store.

"My image is very important to me and I think it's very important to me when I'm shopping," said Kirlew. At the grocery store Kirlew believes her image projects money to the cashiers and store clerks. "That's totally fine because they're none the wiser," said Kirlew.

Engels, who has earned the nickname "Mr. Coupon" for his money-saving efforts, is less concerned with image. The father of one has found a way to save on the purchase of 5 to 10 newspapers by taking a peek inside dumpsters.

At times, he's only actually paid one percent of a $680 grocery bill. "It does take time but if you have the time and are willing to put the effort into it you can do it, too," says Engels.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

Obama Tells Workers He's Kept His Promises

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- In a speech to workers at a wind turbine factory in suburban Philadelphia, President Obama reflected on his time in office, saying although he hasn't been perfect, he's kept his promise to remain focused on improving people’s lives.

Obama told the workers that when he first visited their plant as a candidate three years ago, he pledged to take their struggles and dreams with him to the Oval Office.

"I have kept that promise," Obama said. "I’m going to keep pushing and I’m going to keep fighting for you," he said. "That’s what I think about every single day when I wake up -- what matters to you."

The visit to Pennsylvania's Gamesa Wind Corp., which is located in an important battleground state, was the president's first trip outside of Washington, D.C. since he launched his 2012 reelection campaign on Monday. Gamesa is the first overseas wind turbine manufacturer to set up a full production facility in the U.S.

The purpose of Obama's trip was to highlight the president’s plan to boost clean energy, but at times it seemed as though the president was in full campaign mode, explaining many of his administration’s accomplishments.

For example, the president gave a shout-out to Ron Bloom, who the president said, as a member of White House task force on the automotive industry, "helped us save the auto industry."

In a number of areas things are getting better for Americans, Obama told Gamesa workers, who asked questions about education, gas prices, exports and jobs.

"Day by day, week by week, year by year we slowly make more progress," said Obama.

He did, however, caution that change takes time.

"In our own individual lives -- whether it’s trying to build a career, or raise your kids, or get exercise, it starts step at a time, and then slowly you make progress. And after a year, two years, five years later, you look back and you say, ‘you know what, I’m in a better place right now.’ The country is the same way."

Hoping to show he understands the pain caused by high gas prices, President Obama pushed his plan to promote homegrown energy, cut energy imports by one-third, and double the amount of electricity the U.S. gets from clean sources. "I know this whole issue of high energy is on the minds of people right now, partly because you’re paying more at the pump," he said. "We’ve got to have a sustained energy policy that is consistent," said Obama.

Obama's tone was different from the last time he was running for president.  He didn't make any big promises to the Gamesa workers.  "We’ve gone through a very tough couple of years and I’m not going to guarantee you standing here suddenly every single challenge we have is going to go away overnight," he said, but added that things are improving.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Apr062011

Filmmaker Ken Burns: Cuts to Public Broadcasting Would Do 'Irrevocable Damage'

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As budget negotiations continue in an effort to avert a looming government shutdown, award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns warned Wednesday that proposed cuts to federal funding for public broadcasting would be “devastating,” not just for filmmakers, but for all Americans.

“[CPB and the National Endowment for the Humanities] are five-decades-old institutions that have a way of stitching the country together in ways that people may not immediately perceive if they are just arguing in the rhetoric of hot politics,” Burns told ABC News.

Democrats have accused Republicans of demanding cuts to very small portions of the federal budget, including slashing funding for public broadcasting. In February, the House passed a resolution prohibiting any federal funding for CPB, which received $430 million from Congress this year.

“This has consequences. There are lots of things that public broadcasting, public media does, that can’t be done anywhere else. And you can begin with my films,” explained Burns, whose documentaries include The Civil War, The National Parks and Baseball.

“Every single film that I’ve made would not have been made in the marketplace. It took the support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the help of the National Endowment for the Humanities to have them made. I would hope that our legislators would really seriously consider the kind of repercussions this means for education, because we’re so devoted to not just their broadcast, but their afterlife in schools, that they could do irrevocable damage when we’re very concerned about our status in the world.”

Burns was in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to announce the launch of millions of newly digitized Civil War records from the National Archives, which are now available online for the first time through ancestry.com.

In the event that the government does shut down and the National Archives do close, historians may not be totally out of luck. The newly digitized Civil War archives available on ancestry.com will be free for the general public to access for one week beginning Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Apr062011

Government Shutdown Threatens to Delay Tax Refunds; Taxes Still Due April 18

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- They say nothing is certain except death and taxes. The same is true this year, even though the government might be shut down when tax day arrives.

If Republicans and Democrats in Washington can't agree on a way to fund the government for the rest of this year, non-essential government personnel, including most IRS employees, wouldn't be allowed to work.

Even so, Americans still will be expected to file their taxes by this year's deadline of April 18, IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman said in Washington on Tuesday. Whether there's a shutdown or not, he encouraged people to file on time, preferably electronically. Approximately 70 percent of Americans file electronically.

Mail service would not be interrupted by a government shutdown, so an April 18 postmark still would be key to an on-time tax filing by mail.

"However, taxpayers who file paper returns will experience some delays," Shulman said.

People who file electronically and opt to receive their returns electronically "should expect to see refunds quickly," Shulman said.

Shulman didn't want to speculate on whether the shutdown might damage the IRS's ability to carry through with audits and make sure tax filers are complying with the law.

Edward Karl, the vice president of taxation for the American Institute of CPAs, said that the system is so automated with electronic filing and returns that most accountants and filers are not yet paying attention to the possibility of a government shutdown.

Tax filing season is important for the government, but also for tax filers, many of whom get a refund.

"We do know that the majority of taxpayers have refunds and the average refund is significant -- around $3,000. Taxpayers plan to spend that money," said Karl.

For now, tax professionals seem optimistic there won't be a government shutdown.

Mark Steber, chief tax officer for the Jackson Hewitt tax service, said that "any impact will depend on how a long a shutdown lasts."

Liberty Tax Service said it doesn't expect that that there will be a shutdown.

Both tax services said they will encourage their clients to file electronically, when possible, so they can avoid any possible impact.

Most Americans' tax returns won't be affected by a shutdown anyway. Only about 20 to 25 percent of returns are filed in the last two weeks before tax day.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Apr062011

Is Your Car Costing You More?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- From the rising cost of the rubber on your tires to a two-year high in oil prices, it's no surprise that families are having a tougher time budgeting for driving. Gas has always been an expense for families, but with prices skyrocketing, many are finding that their cars are becoming their most serious budget concern. AAA has calculated that simply owning a small car costs you $6,758 a year -- an SUV can cost upwards of $11,239.

"I did have sticker shock. It was $76 to fill up a tank of gas!" minivan driver and mother of four Karen Slimmon told ABC News. That is almost as much as she paid for groceries to feed her family.

Gas prices across the nation are nearly a dollar higher than they were a year ago. That can make a huge difference in a family's budget.

There are many reasons why oil prices are going up -- from the turmoil in the Middle East to a continuing recovery.

The uprisings in the Middle East have disrupted oil-producing countries, including Libya, which exported 1.5 million barrels of crude a day before the rebellion spread and created pitched battles for prime oil fields. Although the United States does not import any oil from Libya (it mostly supplies Europe -- notably its former colonizer Italy), a fear that protests would topple larger oil providers such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, disrupting the flow of the economic lubricant, sent oil prices skywards.

Beyond the uprisings, the price of oil had already been steadily rising as demand increases in both Europe and the United States while economies recover. This is in addition to strong continuous demand from China and other developing nations.

This combination of both rising demand, and the risk of dropping supply, are the two main factors pushing prices higher globally.

It's not just oil that has people rethinking their budgets. Many other costs associated with your car are rising. The high price of driving goes well beyond filling the tank.

Rubber and other raw materials have jumped 15 percent in cost this year, meaning replacing your tires just got even more expensive. There's also something many people rarely think about, the depreciation of their cars. That's up almost 5 percent as those huge gas guzzlers quickly lose their value. Add insurance and maintenance and AAA says driving now costs you an average of $0.59 a mile.

President Obama said Wednesday that a good option for people is to trade in for a more economical model. "If you're complaining about the price of gas and you're only getting eight miles a gallon...You know, you might want to think about a trade-in," he said in eastern Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

Or you can try simply try leaving your car at home.

That's what Steve Mazor in Southern California is doing. He calculated his gasoline use down to the penny. "The cost per mile of gasoline has been as low as 8 cents…these days it's running over 20 cents," he told ABC News.

That means his 140-mile-a-day commute costs nearly $400 a week. So Steve, who works for the automobile club of Southern California, is spending more days working from home.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

Tech Stocks Lead to Gains; Jobless Rate Falling in Big Cities  

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tech stocks led the way for modest gains in the markets Wednesday. 

The Dow closed up 33 points, Nasdaq gained nine and the S&P added three by the close of Wednesday's trading.

Stocks for materials and energy companies fell for the session. Traders want to see how higher prices for oil, gas and other raw materials will affect corporate profits.  First-quarter earnings reports come out next week.

The jobless rate is falling in many of the nation's largest cities.  The Labor Department says that is especially encouraging because it suggests that hiring is widespread and not limited to a few regions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

DISH Network Wins Bid for Blockbuster at Bankruptcy Auction

PRNewsFoto/DISH Network L.L.C.(ENGLEWOOD, Colo.) -- DISH Network Corporation announced Wednesday it won a bankruptcy court auction for Blockbuster, Inc., the large video rental company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year.

After battling it out with other prospective buyers, DISH Network's winning bid came in at approximately $320 million.  The satellite service provider expects to pay a total of about $228 million to acquire Blockbuster after some adjustments are made at the closing, which is planned for the second quarter of quarter of 2011.

"With its more than 1,700 store locations, a highly recognizable brand and multiple methods of delivery, Blockbuster will complement our existing video offerings while presenting cross-marketing and service extension opportunities for DISH Network," said Tom Cullen, executive vice president of sales, marketing and programming for DISH Network.  "While Blockbuster's business faces significant challenges, we look forward to working with its employees to re-establish Blockbuster's brand as a leader in video entertainment."

Blockbuster decided to sell the company back in February of this year when creditors could not come to an agreement about a recapitalization plan for the company.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

New Sales Report Reflects Sluggish Economy

PRNewsFoto/Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.(NEW YORK) -- While the economy continues to show some signs of improvement, the pace is sluggish. That is reflected in new retails sales reports.

Easter is late, winter weather lingers, and gas prices are pain in the tank. All that adds up to a slower start to spring spending than retailers would like. Still, one new economic report says we did buy more electronic gadgets, clothes and luxury items last month than a year ago. One economist says Internet sales were brisk because people are shopping online from home to save on gasoline. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

Auto Leasing Returning to 2005 Numbers

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Another sign that the economy is slowly improving comes from the auto industry where apparently leasing new cars is in again.

Leasing a new car over buying one is an option that all but disappeared during the banking crisis. But about a year ago, as credit began to loosen up, car dealers sensed an upward trend with more customers attracted to leasing deals. Now, auto leasing is back to levels seen six years ago. It accounted for a reported 21 percent of new car sales last month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

Tax Tip: Deducting for Charitable Donations

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Giving money to your favorite charity qualifies as a tax deduction, but "the key is if you make a charitable contribution, get a receipt or make sure your bank account shows who you've made a charitable contribution to," says Eric Smith with the IRS.

The money must go to a registered nonprofit group, religious organization or charity.

Have you donated clothing to organizations like Goodwill or the Salvation Army?

"If you can keep a list of -- 'Okay, there were four pair of pants and two shirts and the pants are valued at $3 and the shirts are at $2.'  That would be really good documentation to be able to provide."

Expenses involved in charitable work may also be deductible.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio