Lifestyle » Advice http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle The latest Lifestyle news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers. Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:53:21 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Cut Down Your Car Repair Bill With Free Fixes http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/11/cut-down-your-car-repair-bill-with-free-fixes/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/11/cut-down-your-car-repair-bill-with-free-fixes/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:54:45 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/?p=114450 When the Chen family of Silver Spring, Maryland, took their 2011 Toyota Sienna in for new brake pads, they found themselves facing a decision no family wants to make: Christmas present or car repairs.

“We love it and we’ve driven it on many family road trips, but it is just out of warranty and it’s starting to need repairs,” Sandie Chen said.

Save big on your car-repair bills

Avoid being taking for a ride by your mechanic

What to know before you go to a mechanic’s garage

The “Real Money” team brought in auto expert Charlie Romero, founder of Roadfly.com, to help the family’s repair bills from spinning out of control.

Romero shared the following tips with the family of five and help save them more than $1,000.

1. Find free fixes. In addition to safety recalls, carmakers occasionally publish service bulletins to fix problems found in their cars.

“The dealers and manufacturers might not necessarily want you to know because it’s not a safety issue,” he said. “It will cost them but it’ll save you a lot of money.”

The “Real Money” team found that certain Honda Civics qualified for free paint repair and that some Chrysler minivans could receive improved front wheel bearings, which dealerships would install for free.

For the Chens’ Toyota Sienna, the team found they could save up to $450 in free fixes by plugging their car’s VIN in SaferCar.gov. Under the vehicle owner tab, a car owner can put in the make and model of a vehicle and find out about pending recalls as well as service bulletins.

A device called CarMd also uses the same basic technology that a mechanic’s large, expensive scanner uses, but costs around $100.

2. Skip the garage. You may be able to use yourmechanic, in which a repair man comes right to your driveway.

3. Shop around without leaving your home. Use apps like OpenBay and RepairPal to compare repair prices before you take your car into the shop.

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‘Family’ of Vacuums Have Adventures Out of the Closet http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/09/family-of-vacuums-have-adventures-out-of-the-closet/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/09/family-of-vacuums-have-adventures-out-of-the-closet/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 20:59:41 +0000 Jared T. Miller http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/?p=114321 CN henry hoover 1 jtm 140904 16x9 608 Family of Vacuums Have Adventures Out of the Closet

Danny Walker poses with his "family" of Hoovers--Henry, Hetty, and two Little Henry toys. (Caters News Agency)

Vacuums cleaners have come out of the closetand  are living a happy family life, at least the vaccums owned by Danny Walker in Abingdon, England.

Walker, 28, admitted he gets bored while vacuuming, and decided to give his “Henry” — a vacuum model produced by British company Numatic that dresses up the average hoover with cartoon eyes and a smile — a life of its own.

CN henry hoover 3 jtm 140904 16x9 608 Family of Vacuums Have Adventures Out of the Closet

Henry Hoover dons protective clothing during a day at the brewery with his owner, Danny Walker. (Caters News Agency)

“I thought ‘everyone loves Henry Hoover,’” Walker told Caters News Agency, regarding the immensely popular vacuum model. “So I decided to take him on little adventures and get people wanting to see what he’ll end up doing next.”

Walker began posting pictures of the adventures to Facebook about two years ago, showing the vacuum in a variety of situations. He works at a brewery, and the vacuum can be seen hopping on beer trucks, posing with his kids’ Christmas presents, and even traveling with a family of its own. Numatic makes a pink, “female” vacuum called a “Hetty,” and the brand’s popularity has led the company to produce “Little Henry” toys. “Little Henry” enjoys trips to the park with his “father” and other family outings in many of Walker’s photos.

CN henry hoover 2 jtm 140904 16x9 608 Family of Vacuums Have Adventures Out of the Closet

Henry Hoover pushes his "son" in a playground swing. (Caters News Agency)

Taking pictures of a family of Hoovers in a small town like Abingdon  raises eyebrows, but Walker says his Facebook fans—which number in the thousands—are worth the effort.

“People would say ‘here comes hoover boy,’ and some of the looks I have had in the past were priceless,”  he said. “But the Baby Hoover fans need their daily dose so it’s always worth it.”

 

 

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Back-to-School Deals on Clothes, Electronics, Other Essentials http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/08/back-to-school-deals-on-clothes-electronics-other-essentials/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/08/back-to-school-deals-on-clothes-electronics-other-essentials/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:06:27 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/?p=114221

By BECKY WORLEY

Back-to-school shopping procrastinators can now rejoice: Some of the best deals come around Labor Day for clothing, tech and supplies. Here are the biggest categories, websites and store-wide deals we could find.

Target

– Buy one and get one 50 percent off on children’s shoes and apparel

– $5 off $50 using code TGT4QBJF

– Save $40 on an Epson 2530 printer and receive a $5 Target gift card (normally $99.99, sale: $59.99 plus $5 Target gift card)

– Save $50 on Beats by Dre Studio over-the-ear headphones (normally $299.99, sale: $249.99)

– Save $30 on Bose Quiet Comfort 15 Around-the-Ear Headphones (normally $299.99, sale: $269.99)

– 20 percent off Skullcandy Jib earbuds (normally $9.99, sale: $7.99)

Old Navy

– 40 percent off in-store and online. No code needed

JC Penney

– $29.99 eyeglasses at JC Penney Optical.
– 15 percent off the entire site and store including uniform polos and khakis.

Walmart

Girls’ and boys’ approved school wear polos, currently $3.97.

Disney “Frozen” girls’ graphic tee, currently $6.97.

Secondhand Online

ThredUp offers brand-name kids’ clothing gently used for a fraction of their original price. Use code ABC40 for 40 percent off your first thredUP order.

– A different spin on online used clothing is from Schoola. They sell used clothing online, but families who donate clothes designate a school as a beneficiary and a percentage of the price goes back to the donor’s school: 40 percent. Try it out with a 25 percent off code: GMA25.

eBags.com

– 15 percent off the entire site code COMJBTS15 and deals on backpacks like this High Sierra Swerve marked down from $100 to $39.

Other Deals

– iPad 16GB Retina Display: Radio Shack and Walmart have the best prices this week, $50 off at $349.

Don’t Buy an iPhone … Yet

– Apple is expected to announce the iPhone 6 Sept. 9 with the new phone available Sept. 19. Even if you plan to buy an older model, prices usually go down when a new phone is announced. Older models are often discounted by $100.

Don’t Buy a Laptop at Your College Bookstore

– A recent report showed campus bookstores inflating the prices of laptops by 35 percent over online prices.

Add the deals you’ve found in the comments and share with other procrastinators.

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5 Yoga Moves in 5 Minutes for Working Moms http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/06/5-yoga-moves-in-5-minutes-for-working-moms/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/06/5-yoga-moves-in-5-minutes-for-working-moms/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 21:02:33 +0000 Nicole Sawyer http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/?p=113657

This summer more than 20 million Americans are getting ready for a little downward dog. What started out as 5,000 year old spiritual practice has now grown to an international sensation.

Just like Starbucks, studios are popping up on every corner and the obsession has no signs of slowing down any time soon.  Business owners across America are hot for yoga. From designer clothing lines LuluLemon and Sweaty Betty to dozens of luxury retreats, stretching from California to New York, this year yoga is estimated to become a $30 billion business worldwide.

Exercise enthusiasts swear by the practice. In an interview on ABC’s “Real Biz with Rebecca Jarvis”  Kay Kay Clivio, lead trainer at Pure Yoga, says the benefits are endless. “Yoga helps you manage stress in your daily life, breath better and increases focus on the job.”

But for someone not familiar with yoga, the practice can be a little misleading. While Kay Kay Clivio was in studio, ABC asked her to clear up the myths surrounding this practice and give working moms five yoga moves to do in five minutes.

The Truth about Yoga 7 Myths Debunked

1. Yoga is a religion

False. “Yoga is a practice of unifying the mind and the body. It is a practice of Self-Study and developing a relationship with the most important person in your life… YOURSELF:) Yoga is a science- not a religion.”

2. Yoga is easy

“If you think that yoga is easy then you are doing it all wrong. Even a basic yoga class should be challenging if you are approaching the class correctly. There are many different styles of yoga. Some are more mellow than others from a vinyasa yoga or ashtanga class, where you are moving more vigorously. Find a level that is right for you.

3. You have to be flexible to do yoga

Not exactly. In fact, people go to yoga to become more flexible.   “Yoga builds flexibility as well as strength.”

4. Yoga is just for women

This is perhaps the biggest myth of them all. The truth is quite the opposite. In yoga’s early days in India, it started out as a male practice and very few females practiced. Today many famous men openly practice, such as Tom Brady, Adam Levine, Colin Farrell, David Beckham, Matthew McConaughey, Sting…

Says Clivio: “Most of my teachers and leaders in modern day yoga have been men- Bikram, Baron Baptiste, Pattabhi Jois… In my 6pm class at PURE West the room is often 1/3- 1/2 Men! It’s fantastic.”

5. Yoga is not for everybody

“Yoga is for everyone! It is a method of us to explore the potential of our bodies and create clarity of the mind. It teaches us to self care and plays an important part of development and growth as human beings.”

6. Yoga Causes Injuries

False.  ”Yoga actually HEALS injuries. When it is practiced from a place of Non- Ego and you don’t push too hard to fast it is magic on healing injuries.”

7. Yoga is too time consuming

“I say five minutes is better than No Minutes! If you can’t  make it to a class commit to doing just five minutes… consistency is the key to building flexibility.”

 

Here are 5 moves you can do in 5 minutes

For best results, each of these poses should be done for five to eight slow breaths. Before getting started Pure West’s lead instructor,  Kay Kay Clivio gave three tips to creating your space.

  • Tip 1- Create a quite space to fit your 6′x2′yoga mat
  • Tip 2- Commit to a time. Working out at home can be difficult if you don’t set time aside because we can easily get distracted by other things.
  • Tip 3-  ”Turn off your devices… Yoga is about creating a quiet mind. Turn off anything that might be a distraction.”

 

Yoga Move 1: Child’s Pose 

GTY mar 4 140609 16x9 608 5 Yoga Moves in 5 Minutes for Working Moms

Child's Pose (Jithendra M./Getty Images)

 How to: From hands and knees

Big toes together, knees about mats width apart. Sit hips back onto heels, forehead to the floor or block. Straighten arms out in front of you. Press through all your fingers evenly. Take 5-8 slow, even breaths ( use the imagery of sipping the breath like water through a straw from tip of tailbone to top of head)

Benefits:  This pose is a gentle way to begin to stretch the body and start your inward journey. It targets the low back, hips and shoulders.

Yoga Move 2: Cat/Cow 

GTy yoga mar 140609 16x9 608 5 Yoga Moves in 5 Minutes for Working Moms

Cat Position Supported by Arms (John Freeman/Getty Images)

How to: From Table Top position.

Inhale cow, sink your spine down toward the floor pulling your chest forward and pelvis backward. Gaze up to sky.

Exhale  cat,  press the spine up toward the sky, round the entire spine line and angry cat. Gaze to belly

Benefits: This helps to supple the spine and lubricates the joints. Also teaches us to synchronize the breath and movement.

Yoga Move 3: Downward Facing Dog 

GTY yoga mar 3 140609 16x9 608 5 Yoga Moves in 5 Minutes for Working Moms

Downward Facing Dog (Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images)

How to: From table top, curl toes, lift hips up and back to an upside down V shape.

Press through every finger evenly. Lift the hips high away from the hands, stretching the sides of the body. Move your inner thighs back and your heels down. It feels great to alternate bending the knees a few breaths to work out any tension in the backs the hamstrings, calves knees and ankles.

Benefits: This pose is all purpose, it hits everything. Strengthens hamstrings, calves, low back, entire spine, shoulders, as well as a core strengthener, tones arms.

Yoga Move 4: Forward Bend with Shoulder Stretch

ABC forwardbend mar 140609 16x9 608 5 Yoga Moves in 5 Minutes for Working Moms

Forward Bend with Shoulder Stretch (Nicole Sawyer/ABC News)

 

How to: Feet hip width apart.

Integrate all 10 of your fingers together down to the webbing. Here is a tip, use a hand towel to get your hand’s closer together if your fingers can’t touch.

Fold forward over bent legs so upper body is supported by your legs. Relax your head and begin to bring the arms up and over your head. Lift toes, balance weight evenly on all 3 corners of the feet as you gently straighten your legs to your range of motion.

Benefits: Increases mobility in shoulders with deep stretch. Light hamstring stretch

Yoga Move 5: Crescent Moon 

ABC Crescent Moon mar 140609 16x9 608 5 Yoga Moves in 5 Minutes for Working Moms

Crescent Moon at Pure Yoga West (Nicole Sawyer/ABC News)

How to: From standing position.

Toes and heels together to touch, strong legs.  Inhale arms overhead, interlace fingers and release index finger (pistol grip). Arms as straight as possible. Slowly reach up to stretch the sides of body and to the right, press hips to left in the opposite direction. Body like it’s between two panes of glass. Move in small increments every time you inhale lengthen, every time you exhale go down a little deeper

Benefits: Improves core body strength. Improves balance and concentration. Opens your hips and chest, while relaxing your lower back and helps build up strength in your legs. Improves oxygen, blood circulation and energizes the entire body.

 

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How to Win Rock-Paper-Scissors, Study Shows (Really) http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/05/how-to-win-rock-paper-scissors-study-shows-really/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/05/how-to-win-rock-paper-scissors-study-shows-really/#comments Fri, 02 May 2014 17:57:07 +0000 Katie Kindelan http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/?p=113018 GTY rock paper scissors sk 140502 16x9 608 How to Win Rock Paper Scissors, Study Shows (Really)

(Getty)

If you are about to engage in an intense — because when are they not intense — game of rock-paper-scissors with a friend or loved one, do not let them read this article.

You, however, will want to take notes.

A team of researchers from China have just released the results of the first large-scale study of the game and their conclusions on player behavior could help you win the next round.

The study, led by three researchers at China’s Zhejiang University, recruited 360 undergraduate and graduate students to play a total of 300 rounds of rock-paper-scissors while their actions were recorded.

When a student won a round, the researchers found, they tended to stick with the same action (i.e. rock, paper or scissor) instead of switching to another.

When a student lost a round, they most often switched to another action, rotating in a clockwise direction, from rock to paper to scissor.

HT rock paper scissors study sk 140502 v5x4 16x9 608 How to Win Rock Paper Scissors, Study Shows (Really)

(arvix.org)

So, if you can think fast enough during each round’s three-second countdown, you can anticipate your opponent’s next move by whether they won, and thus would stay with the same action, or lost, and thus would switch to the next action, which you’d be able to determine by going clockwise.

The findings upend the previously held notion that rock-paper-scissors followed classical game theory, or mixed-strategy Nash equilibrium (NE), “in which every player chooses the three actions with equal probability,” the study’s authors write.

Instead, according to this study, those who win at rock-paper-scissor appear exhibit “collective cyclic motions” and “conditioned response.”

“Our theoretical calculations reveal that this new strategy may offer higher payoffs to individual players in comparison with the NE mixed strategy, suggesting that high social efficiency is achievable through optimized conditional response,” the authors write.

Translation: You can beat the pants off your opponents if you think it through properly.

The researchers say the work they did on just rock-paper-scissors could be extended in future studies to human psychology.

“Whether conditional response is a basic decision-making mechanism of the human brain or just a consequence of more fundamental neural mechanisms is a challenging question for future studies,” they conclude.

 

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Grandfather-to-Be’s Touching Response to Baby News Will Make Your Day http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/04/grandfather-to-bes-touching-response-to-baby-news-will-make-your-day/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/04/grandfather-to-bes-touching-response-to-baby-news-will-make-your-day/#comments Fri, 25 Apr 2014 15:34:37 +0000 Liz Fields http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/?p=112851 GTY pacifier baby sk 140425 16x9 608 Grandfather to Bes Touching Response to Baby News Will Make Your Day

A baby's pacifier is seen in this stock image. Credit: Getty Images

Jessica Hickey’s father has been asking for grandchildren since her wedding night — and his response to learning she was pregnant is nothing short of delightful.

Hickey, an only child, made the big reveal while filming her dad opening a gift box with a pacifier and note inside. She posted the video of his reaction to Reddit saying:

Told my dad he is going to be a grandpa I am his only child and my mother passed away 20 years ago. He has been asking us for grandchildren since our wedding night. I think he is happy. :)

ABC News spoke to Jessica briefly who said her dad, in his 50s, has no idea of his new-found Internet fame.

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Chef Symon’s 7 Tips to Help You Start Gardening This Earth Day http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/04/chef-symons-7-tips-to-help-you-start-gardening-this-earth-day/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/04/chef-symons-7-tips-to-help-you-start-gardening-this-earth-day/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 19:52:45 +0000 Joshua Cohan http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/?p=112693 GTY Chef Michael Symon mar 140422 16x9 608 Chef Symons 7 Tips to Help You Start Gardening This Earth Day

Chef Michael Symon. Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Food Network SoBe Wine & Food Festival

You know Chef Michael Symon as the co-host of ABC’s “The Chew.” But what you may not know on this Earth Day is that Symon comes from a long line of gardeners.

“My grandfather had his own garden, my father had his own garden, and I’ve had my own garden for over 20 years,” Symon said in an interview for a special edition of the ABC News Radio show “Perspective.”

“There’s something so soothing about digging in the dirt,” he said. “With the stress we all have in our day-to-day lives, there’s nothing better to me than going out in the morning with a cup of coffee and putzin’ around in my garden.”

Symon’s garden includes multiple varieties of heirloom tomatoes and chilies, eggplants and “every herb under the sun that you could fathom.”

Here are seven tips from Chef Symon that will have you gardening — and eating! — in no time:

Take a cue from the sun.
“You always need sun. The best sun is morning sun,” he said. “So when you’re planning on where to put your garden in your yard, stand outside and look where you’re getting the best morning sun. And that’s a very good place to start.”

Mix it up!
Never plant something in the same place two years in a row, Symon said. “Tomatoes take certain nutrients out of the soil that peppers may not, so you want to keep moving things around your garden. There are even parts of my garden that I leave dormant for a year or two to kind of rejuvenate the soil.”

Keep them close.
“Plants are like people. If you crowd them a little bit and they actually touch as they’re growing, they tend to grow better. You know, they’re happier. You need less water. You need less fertilizer.  And you could grow more in a compact space.”

Consider composting.
“We always keep a big compost at our house,” Symon said. “We’re using coffee grounds” and other things to create and maintain healthy soil.

Get to know Mother Nature.
“Understand what bugs eliminate other bugs,” he said. For instance, “If you have a lot of slugs (in your garden), let ladybugs in. They’re typically going to eliminate a good amount of those. Eliminate certain pests by adding other pests.”

Get the kids involved.
“It’ll make them less-picky eaters because they’ll always want to try to cook things that they’ve grown.”

Use your taste buds.
“Things that taste good together typically grow well together,” Symon said. “Next to my tomatoes will be basil or peppers or eggplant.”

Hear the full segment below:

* Note that some responses have been edited for brevity.

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How Christina Milian Co-Parents With Ex-Husband The-Dream http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/04/how-christina-milian-co-parents-with-ex-husband-the-dream-3/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/04/how-christina-milian-co-parents-with-ex-husband-the-dream-3/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:18:47 +0000 Abbie Boudreau http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/?p=112538 Christina Milian is a chart-topping R&B and hip-hop star best known for hits like “Dip It Low” and her star run on “Dancing With the Stars.”

It is a much more personal role, however, that means the most to Milian: being a mother to 4-year-old daughter Violet Madison Nash.

When Milian teamed up with the parenting blog Momtastic last month to share her motherhood experiences, it was a blog she wrote on co-parenting that struck a chord with other moms.

“I feel like I’m in a good place, then all the better to just put it out there and  hope that it can help someone else,” Milian told ABC News of why she decided to make her private life public.

“We all figure it out,” she said.  “Sometimes, you just got to take it, take the lesson, and learn, and know that this happened for a reason.”

Milian, 32, divorced Violet’s father, singer-songwriter The-Dream, in 2011, when their daughter was just a few months old.

The singer says she gets past the rough points of dealing with a former spouse by allowing herself to pause and remember what’s important.

“I say, ‘Take a second and breathe,’” Milian said.  “You know, have the best intentions.  Pray on it.”

Milian revealed she also got outside help – in the form of a therapist – to help her learn how to communicate with her ex, whose real name is Terius Nash.

“I think that communication will save you half the drama,” she said.  “You know, it makes things so much easier.  And I think I learned that.

“My motivation at the end of the day was making sure that my daughter had two parents that were in her life consistently,” Milian said.  “She’s a really smart girl and I think she has a healthy understanding of knowing that mommy and daddy are no longer together but we both love her.”

Engaged since last year to Jas Prince, Milian says another important aspect of co-parenting is to know when to introduce a new partner to your child.

“I think it’s very important to take your time when introducing a new person into your child’s life,” Milian said.  “You want to make sure this is going to work out so you’re not introducing them to a new person over and over again because you never know who is going to be the one.”

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KFC Debuts ‘Chicken Corsage’ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/04/kfc-debuts-chicken-corsage/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/04/kfc-debuts-chicken-corsage/#comments Sat, 12 Apr 2014 14:48:02 +0000 Gillian Mohney http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/?p=112358 HT kfc corsage wrist chicken jt 140412 16x9 608 KFC Debuts Chicken Corsage

The corsage is made of silk baby's breath flowers and a drumstick. (KFC)

Looking for the perfect accessory that’s both floral and full of protein?

KFC has a solution for you: the chicken corsage and – surprisingly – it’s not a belated April Fool’s joke.

The company has joined forces with Louisville, Ky., based florist Nanz & Kraft to create a truly memorable accessory composed of baby’s breath flowers and fried chicken.

There have already been 20 orders for the accessory and even a request from a wedding party in Kentucky, said Rick Maynard, a KFC spokesman.

“We’ll probably end up catering that one just so guests don’t end up eating the corsages,” said Maynard.

Customers can order the corsage online. Although the chicken is not included, customers get a $5 KFC coupon they can redeem for a drumstick. Either attach the drumstick to the flowers or have a snack before the big event – the choice is yours.

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‘Real Money’ Alert: Check Your Bills for Bogus Charges http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/04/real-money-alert-check-your-bills-for-bogus-charges/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2014/04/real-money-alert-check-your-bills-for-bogus-charges/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 22:02:57 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/?p=112189

ABC News’ Rebecca Jarvis reports:

Leslie and Mike Rebholz of Indianapolis said they thought it would never happen to them: bogus charges showing up on their bills.

On a bill full of Christmas present purchases was a charge for a $463 high-tech Canon camera. It had been bought from a Walmart in Virginia Beach, 700 miles from the Rebholzes home.

“I would love that camera personally,” Mike Rebholz said. “But definitely not something we were buying. … You know it is, it’s almost a little scary just how at risk we are.”

ABC bill guard jtm 140407 16x9 608 Real Money Alert: Check Your Bills for Bogus Charges

Related: 7 shocking facts about the financial security of Americans.

The Rebholzes had signed up for a free service called BillGuard, a personal finance security company that scans bills and automatically looks for suspicious charges.  When Mike Rebholz got an alert from BillGuard about the Walmart charge, he immediately called the store.

“You know, looking back on it, it’s like ‘Wow, this is really amazing that we got that notification,’” he said. “They [Walmart] said, ‘Thank you for letting us know. Most likely that camera’s sitting … waiting to be picked up.’”

BillGuard says about one in four Americans fall victim to what it calls “gray charges” — such as a company billing your twice for the same item, free product trials that become paid subscriptions and monthly gym membership fees that creep up year after year.

The Better Business Bureau says that gray charges are a big problem. For example, the bureau received 7,700 consumer complaints in 2013 for third-party magazine subscription renewal services.

Tom Maxim of New York said he thought he’d cancelled a free trial offer to the legal database Rocket Lawyer.

In a statement, Rocket Lawyer said that that Maxim had requested and received a full refund after contacting its representatives more than a week after the free trial had ended.  

“We are committed to our customers’ satisfaction and offer refunds to any customers who believe they have been billed in error,” Rocket Lawyer said in a statement.

In the last two years, BillGuard, which has an app available on the iPhone and Android, says it’s identified $50 million in suspicious charges for its users.

CEO Yaron Samid said you can protect yourself by simply scanning your bills regularly and closely, but according to BillGuard just one in 10 of Americans actually do.  Samid said that marketing and sales tactics end up costing Americans more money that they assumed they’d pay. 

Mike and Leslie Rebholz track every charge, now fully aware that even the small ones can add up.

“It could have gone into thousands of dollars,” Mike Rebholz said. “So to catch it with just 400-some dollars really is. … It’s a relief.”

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