10 Financial Challenges and Saving Solutions

Steals and deals on gas, food, phones and more.

By Mary Rowland from Reader's Digest

5. Your wife’s birthday is coming up. She has champagne taste, and you’re on a beer budget.

Solution: Get a cup of coffee, prop yourself up at your computer and take a look at some new online options.

Shopping.com compares prices, warranties, dimensions, quality and other factors for the top five sellers in a specific category. It also provides buyer reviews and ratings. If you’re looking for jewelry, for instance, you can search by material, stone type, style and store. A no-brainer for men short on patience.

6. You’d love to get away over the holidays, but with fuel prices and airfares climbing, it doesn’t look good.

Solution: New Internet travel search engines analyze data and update prices regularly to help you get the cheapest rate on airfares, hotels and rental cars. Objective price comparisons and no commissions.

Farecompare.com collects data and updates 6 million fares between 77,000 city pairs up to three times a day. For last-minute getaways, see the Top Deals list. Suppose you live in Denver, Colorado, and you would like to slip away for a long weekend. At FareCompare, you can see that it would cost you $158 round-trip to Chicago, $198 to Cancun and only $247 to Anchorage.

Kayak.com gathers flight and fare information from hundreds of websites in real time to provide what it claims are the best travel deals available, including flight, hotel and rental cars. A recent check found that the cheapest nonstop round-trip fare between Boston and Pittsburgh was $139 on either United or JetBlue. Click on the airline of your choice and you will be linked to that site with the flight ready to book.

Farecast.com charts the lowest fare between the departure and destination cities you choose, predicts whether fares are heading up or down and allows you to see what time of year is cheapest for travel. The site searches the airlines and provides links to each. Click “flexible search” to get a lower-priced option. This site is in beta testing, and for now, departure cities are limited. A recent search showed that the lowest price for a round-trip ticket between Seattle and Houston was $244. Twenty days later it had risen to $333. Farecast predicted that fare would hold for seven days.

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